The government’s emphasis on public service efficiency has given social care a strong case for more money in next year’s comprehensive spending review, the new care services minister has said.
Ivan Lewis told Community Care Live that the government might be persuaded to invest in social care by consideration of the long-term savings preventive services could bring.
He said: “The review is a real opportunity for social care to assert its value in a much bigger context. If you were to shift resources into more preventive interventions, would that not lead to better value and better quality? The government is having a genuine debate about that.”
However, Lewis admitted it was a challenge for government to resist the short-term political pressures to spend money on reactive services and invest in prevention.
And the project manager of the Wanless social care review claimed the Treasury was not convinced of the economic case for preventive social care reducing the burden on acute services.
Julien Forder, who is also deputy director of the London School of Economics’ personal social services research unit, said the Wanless review had failed to find convincing evidence for the economic value of prevention, and more research was needed.
He said the crucial problem was to identify people for whom low-level services would prevent future acute care, because it would be too expensive to simply provide these to all older people.
Forder also said the Treasury was highly unlikely to fund the Wanless review’s proposal for a care system in which the state guaranteed a free minimum level of care, which it would help individuals to top up.
However, he said it was interested in a more modest version of the partnership model.
Jon Glasby, head of health and social care partnerships at Birmingham University’s Health Services Management Centre, said insufficient thought had gone into how a preventive system would work in practice.
He added: “Nobody has explained to me what a preventive system will look like.”