Local authority commissioning should be more transparent and outcomes more minutely measured to help increase the number of providers in the social care market, said Peter Hay, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services.
Hay, who chairs the Shaping Local Care Services strand of the engagement process on reforming England’s social care system, believes that a more open commissioning process aligned with clearer outcomes and better data analysis could help in developing the market.
“One of the things we need to work out is what are the tools that encourage and at times support councils to do more of this,” he said. “We are thinking a lot about transparency. How can transparency be used in terms of how you shape those sets of markets? How do councils show how they are spending money and what their use of the various levers in those are and how do we incentivise people to do so in an encouraging and engaging way.”
An applicable model is the Communities Count tool, which measures health and social care indicators in American counties, he said.
The suggestion comes a year after the government scrapped the annual performance assessment of local authority adult care departments meaning that councils no longer have to submit performance data to the Care Quality Commission.
Hay was speaking to Community Care after his committee had reduced to a final five broad themes that it will be looking at in earnest.
Among changes, Hay wants consumers to be better informed, but alongside this there had to be an acknowledgement that councils will have a facilitating role in developing the market.
Hay said social care should be regarded as operating across a series of markets, rather than across one for people with specialist care needs. It meant looking at prevention, reablement, rehabilitation and universal services and interacting with the housing market and specialist NHS markets, he said.
The committee has also been looking at how councils can improve their use of information when looking at how people behave in given situations and how that information can be used to inform the offer. For instance supermarkets use customer intelligence data to shape behaviours and similar tools could be used in areas like contingency planning.
In light of the growing row over the level of fees paid to providers by councils, Hay said it was important the market is sustainable but that it had to focus on quality, which means finding more money for providers and related to that what interventions will be needed in the event of market failure, as with care homes provider Southern Cross.
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