Training social workers to spot telecare needs ‘will cut costs’

Councils can generate big savings from telecare so long as they improve training for social workers in identifying appropriate options for clients during assessment, says a study out this week.

Older woman in chair
Older woman in chair

Councils can generate big savings from telecare so long as they improve training for social workers in identifying appropriate options for clients during assessments, says a study.

Using telecare could generate an estimated £3m to £7.8m a year for the average council through reduced home care costs and delaying entry to residential care, said the report from assessment systems provider FACE Recording and Measurement Systems, funded by telecare provider Tunstall.

FACE reviewed a sample of 50 older people’s assessments and identified where telecare could have been used instead of other forms of care.

The savings figure was identified by running the revised assessments through FACE’s resource allocation system and comparing costs with and without telecare, which found package costs could be reduced by between 8.5% and 19%. Scaled up for an average local authority’s older people’s services, this translates into savings of between £3m and £7.8m a year.

The report said achieving the shift involved councils moving from considering telecare as an “add-on” activity to seeing it as a mainstream response to people, at the assessment stage. Currently, it said, “the emphasis remains strongly on either home care provision or the use of direct payments to employ a relative/friend to provide support”.

“Staff training is critical,” it added. “Frontline staff need to be made more aware of the specific benefits of different telecare solutions. This includes guidance on both which telecare solutions are appropriate to particular needs; and on the needs profiles of the types of clients who will typically benefit most from telecare.”

Councils also needed to modify their assessment tools so that telecare was considered routinely at the assessment stage and care managers asked the right questions to identify the appropriate assistive technology.

It also called for a national outcomes monitoring system to test how well councils were doing in using telecare to make savings in their budgets, saying that currently provision of and outcomes from telecare were “somewhat of a postcode lottery”.

The report was launched at last week’s spring seminar held by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services.

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