Investing in local communities can save social care hundreds of pounds per service user each year, soon-to-be-published research from the London School of Economics will show.
Speaking at the National Children and Adult Services Conference 2010, Professor Martin Knapp, director of the LSE’s Personal Social Services Research Unit, outlined the savings that can be made from three types of community-based social care initiatives.
Knapp has been researching the economic case for building community capacity.
Community navigators, volunteers working with hard-to-reach individuals to provide benefit and debt advice, cost just under £300 per person, Knapp’s research found.
“But the economic benefits from less time lost at work, savings in benefits payments and fewer GP visits could amount to £900 per person in the first year,” said Knapp. “Quality of life improvement as a result of better mental health could also be valued in monetary terms to add a further sizeable economic benefit,” he added.
Timebanks, where people exchange services for non-cash credits built up by supporting others, cost less than £450 per member per year. But savings and other economic pay offs save more than £1,300 per member.
“This is a conservative estimate of the net economic benefit, since timebanks can achieve a wider range of impacts than those we have been able to quantify and value,” said Knapp.
Befriending typically costs about £80 per older person. “Savings could be £35 in the first year alone because of the reduced need for treatment and support for mental health needs,” said Knapp.
“If we then also look at quality of life improvements as a result of better mental health – using evidence from some of the POPPs pilots – their monetary value would be around £300 per person per year,” he added.
“Many community initiatives have been championed for a long time. We have shown that they can be attractive economically. When managed well they can save money and generate considerable value,” said Knapp.
The findings of the research are particularly relevant as they quantify the impact Big Society type projects can have on social care. Rumours circulating at the National Children and Adults Services Conference, suggest that one reason for the delay in the government’s vision for social care is because Prime Minister David Cameron wants to see more references to the Big Society in the vision.
As part of the Building Community Capacity project, Knapp has been working with Annette Bauer, Margaret Perkins and Tom Snell, also from the LSE’s Personal Social Services Research Unit at the London School of Economics, to look at some of the economic consequences of particular capacity-building initiatives.
Knapp’s team has developed a model that allows them to use evidence from published studies and local data to assist commissioners and others in their decision-making. A review of evidence relating to specific capacity-building approaches will be published later in the year.
The work is addressing two linked questions:
Does investment in building community capacity have the potential to prevent or delay the need for social care?
Does it have other impacts that in turn will generate cost savings – through reduced use of services or reliance on welfare benefits, for example – or wider economic benefits – perhaps as a result of improvements in productivity or quality of life?
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