Review and monitoring - Using panels
Panels can be used to deal with risk management and spend control rather than to enable suitable risk taking and to monitor quality and consistency of assessments and care and support planning across social work teams.
Panels are designed to do a variety of things. Most are intended to review care plans (care and support plans for people who use services and support plans for carers as they are under the Care Act) to maintain quality and consistency across social work practice. However, they are more often than not used to make sure risk is managed cheaply rather than enabling suitable risk taking, and costs are kept to a minimum by scrutinising personal budget allocations.
What are the outcomes we want to achieve?
- People understand the basis on which decisions are made
- There is mutual agreement on how the plan will meet needs
- The plan is signed off in a timely fashion
- The person is not left without support in case of a dispute
What tools and resources do we need to do a good job? What are the steps we have to go through?
- The purpose of the panel is clear
- Panels only meet to discuss exceptions
- A scalable process is established which has clear levels of authorisation and delegated decision-making for all but the most complex plans, which means panels just meet to discuss plans which fall outside this scheme of delegation
What are the products we will have at the end of this process?
- A panel process operates in circumstances where the level of complexity/ amount of the allocation requires more decision-making authority
- In complex cases a panel is beneficial because it allows different perspectives in agreeing a way forward
- An indicative budget agreed via the assessment prior to support planning
- A dispute resolution process where budgets are difficult to agree communicated to the individual and the family
- Trained case coordinators skilled in writing and presenting reports to panel where relevant
- A paperless process
- A plan which is agreed by all parties including a copy of the plan held by the individual
- Swift transparent decision-making at the appropriate level
- Where a plan is not approved, clear written communication regarding the reasons and an indication of what would be needed for approval.
- Final personal budget amount
When does this process start and end and within what timescales should this process be completed?
- Local commitment to minimum standards
- Complete once all the elements of the plan and the personal budget are agreed by all parties
- Should not delay needs being met even if decision-making is iterative
- Proportionate to the level of need and the urgency
Who needs to be involved and what is their role? Who is taking the lead?
The people involved in this process should reflect the complexity of the situation and any differential between initial and final budget. Wherever possible, delegated authority should be used and trust placed in trained skilled case coordinators and their managers to make the majority of decisions which are in line with the indicative budget.
Panels should be used where helpful in facilitating a complex decision. They should not be used as a default mechanism for agreeing budgets.
- Care coordinator
- Support planner
- Team manager
- Head of service - service manager
Panels review the suitability of the services detailed in the care and support plan (support plan for carers) in meeting needs. When needs are understood as services, panels can sometimes refuse to agree more creative solutions put forward by social care workers because cheaper, less risky service arrangements can be used. Social care workers then begin to 'second guess' panels, and create acceptable service-based care and support plans that they know will be agreed by them. This can maintain a service dependency amongst people who use services.
Timeliness can also be a problem, with panels often delaying the deployment of the personal budget.
Panels can be used effectively as a quality control mechanism for social work teams. They can be used to develop greater consistency in assessment and care and support planning.