The delivery of shared services, where organisations share administrative functions or join-up frontline provision, is seen as a significant benefit by social care managers, but is unlikely to save much money, a new survey has found.
The survey of 178 public sector managers, by law firm Browne Jacobson, found those working in adult social care and children’s services were most positive about the benefits of sharing services. More than two-thirds of these managers felt they were of significant or very significant benefit, and helped deliver quicker response time and flexibility, standardised services and delivery of new services.
Browne Jacobson partner Sarah Erwin-Jones said many managers felt they have been “sharing services for years” and that whereas the starting point for shared services was back-office functions, “perhaps the perception of social services is not that, but about the way they are delivered to an individual”.
Sir Peter Gershon, who led the government’s 2003-4 review of public sector efficiency, writes in the report’s foreword that shared services have been crucial “in improving efficiency and delivering quality, value-for-money services”, and are important in achieving the government’s 3% yearly efficiency targets.
But the study found that social care managers believe only 11% of their organisation’s budgets can be saved by sharing services.
However, Erwin-Jones said: “If you are a social worker and are visiting somebody who has already seen a health visitor, you don’t have to go through the information again. Less will be spent on the process and more on the personalisation function.”
Traditionally, shared services meant the combining of back-office functions, including human resources, information technology and finance, but now include frontline services, such as joint teams and home visits. In Cambridgeshire, social services and healthcare providers created a single information source on the care needs of older people. All staff can access the information electronically using handheld computers so they can assess in a single visit the help needed.