Assessment - Resource Allocation
The Care Act Guidance identifies the need for a transparent and simple resource allocation process
The Care Act and its Guidance only prescribes three principles for resource allocation: timeliness, transparency and sufficiency. Councils have discretion in deciding what resource allocation approach to adopt as long as they adhere to these principles.
What are the outcomes we want to achieve?
- Person is clear how their budget has been calculated
- The budget is sufficient to meet the outcomes identified
- The individual understands each element of the personal budget and what it will cover
- Any restrictions and reporting requirements are clearly communicated and understood for each funding stream comprised within the final budget
- People understand the financial contribution they are expected to make and the process for making a contribution
- The allocation reflects a cost-effective, reasonable and lawfully calculated amount to meet the identified outcomes
- The final allocation is not a surprise to the individual and reflects a shared understanding of what is reasonable in individual circumstances
What tools and resources do we need to do a good job? What are the steps we have to go through?
- A simple co-ordinated calculation process which can be easily communicated by staff to people and families
- A generic process for everyone
- A reference tool indicating the cost of the services which the council would arrange to meet eligible needs
- A transparent decision-making process to agree the allocation
- Financial assessment(s) for each of the funding streams involved
- Information describing a dispute resolution process where budgets are not agreed
- Information and advice on the options for managing personal budget including direct payments
- Clear information, including forms and templates to enable people to meet the requirements for recording and reporting how they use the money for all funding streams
- Clear information outlining any restrictions on how money may be used for each funding stream
- Top up options where appropriate
- Healthy liaison with any additional funding partners and agreement over case coordination and sharing of information
- Wherever possible a full year's budget calculated
What are the products we will have at the end of this process?
- There needs to be a reasonable measure of flexibility in resource allocation to cover fluctuating needs where relevant
- An indicative amount of money, or range, which enables the care and support planning process to begin
When does this process start and end and within what timescales should this process be completed?
- Indicative budget approval prior to the commencement of care and support planning
- Final budget approval should follow swiftly after the care planning stage
- Wherever possible the timing for any additional funding should be coordinated to enable a single allocation with a single start date
- Should meet with standards agreed locally for decision-making from the point of approving the plan
Who needs to be involved and what is their role? Who is taking the lead?
- Financial assessment team
- Care coordinator
- Relevant professionals with specialist knowledge linked to additional funding streams
Social care has always involved the allocation of resources, but the introduction of personal budgets has required that this be done in a different way. Instead of drawing down on pre-defined (and often pre-purchased) services, personal budgets require people to be given an early indication of the amount of money that will be available to meet their eligible assessed needs. This is so they can plan with an awareness of the resources available on an equal footing with any professionals involved and with creativity to use the budget differently. Many of the problems associated with resource allocation have resulted from councils trying to come up with perfect systems that produce "accurate" and affordable allocations every time, which while understandable misunderstands the primary purpose of resource allocation.
Resource Allocation Algorithms
Resource allocation is often achieved in councils by an algorithm run by 'back office' teams which 'translates' the care plan (pre-care Act), into a costed plan. This costing informs the indicative allocation or 'starter budget'. There is then a care planning stage which results in adjustments to the budget and sign-off by the Council if budget and care plan are satisfactory.
The algorithm used in the resource allocation process is not always transparent or easily understood by the person with the social care needs. This is because it is often a commercially sensitive tool based on years of work. However, the Care Act requires Councils to have a sufficient, timely and transparent system for allocating resources. It does not actually require Councils to have 'a RAS'. However, to meet the Care Act standard it is necessary:
- To be able to explain how the RAS has been established, and the process for agreeing upon a figure in any one case
- To put every eligible person with a social care need through the same process
- Not to charge people who may pay for some of their care costs themselves for more than the actual cost of buying a service. This must include people who are going into a care home.
The implication of this last point is that if the council gets discounts from bulk buying they can't charge more than the discounted fee pro-rata.
Generating a system for allocating resources that can do all of this without creating considerable bureaucracy and processes is challenging.
There is significant variation in the approaches Councils take to agreeing personal budget allocations. The Care Act allows for a range of methods so long as the principles of timeliness, transparency and sufficiency are upheld. Some Councils have started to consider different ways of agreeing an upfront sum of money for a personal budget that conforms to these principles and is less bureaucratic. This tends to be based on social work judgement about the person's needs and the risk to them if these needs are not met as part of a co-produced, person-centred assessment process. These approaches seek to avoid complex back office algorithms in favour better conversations and good social work practice. This brings the challenge of workforce culture change, but has the advantage of being more straightforward and Care Act complaint.
- Case study1: Derby Council - Assessment/Resource Allocation (docx - 864Kb) (opens new window)
- Case study 2: Doncaster Council - Assessment/Resource Allocation (docx - 23Kb) (opens new window)
- Doncaster Council High Level Re-script Process (opens new window)