The study found significant proportions of people who received re-ablement in 2004-5 did not require any home care two years later in each of four councils: the Wirral (87%), Salford (48%), Leicestershire (40%) and Sutton (36%).
The research, for the Department of Health’s Care Services Efficiency Delivery team, comes with 130 of the 150 English councils having either implemented or decided to introduce a re-ablement service.
Under this approach, service users receive an intensive period of home care, often six weeks, designed to re-able them to carry out daily tasks and thereby reduce the level of ongoing support they will need and the demand on home care services.
Currently, re-ablement tends to be provided by in-house home care teams, though local authorities differ over whether they reserve the service for people discharged from hospital or open it more widely to people assessed as requiring care.
Earlier research published in January by CSED found 58% of users who had undergone re-ablement in Leicestershire did not subsequently need ongoing care, compared with 5% who had not received re-ablement.
Last week’s study, by York University’s social policy research unit, was designed to test its long-term benefits, though CSED admitted it was limited by the absence of a control group of users who had not undergone re-ablement.
Team managers across all four councils said they believed re-ablement had reduced demand for social care and promoted well-being among users.
However, they raised concerns about the transfer of people from in-house re-ablement services to independent home care providers that tended to do things for people, reversing any gains in independence.
They also said access to appropriate housing, equipment and telecare and information on community support, and the engagement of carers were vital to the success of re-ablement.