Councils ‘wasting resources’ on social work assessments, report finds

More people could have problems resolved at first contact without assessment, finds study from the Institute for Public Care

Picture: Image broker/rex/shutterstock
Picture: Image broker/rex/shutterstock

Some councils are “wasting” resources on undertaking social work assessments in cases where people’s problems could be resolved at the first point of contact, a report has warned.

The number of people who received a full assessment but did not receive care services afterwards could be reduced if an effective front door service were in place to signpost them to alternative help in the community, said the Institute for Public Care (IPC) report.

It pointed to evidence from the Local Government Association’s Adult Social Care Efficiency programme, which identified examples of councils’ diverting people away from social care by having front door services with a “strong focus” on resolving people’s problems.

The number of people whose issues were resolved at the front door in these councils equated to approximately 75% of those who had made contact with the council for help from adult social care, the programme found.

‘Follow up conversations’

The IPC report recommended that councils develop effective front door services as one of six steps for managing future demand for formal social care services. The focus of these services should be to “listen and talk with customers to identify solutions that are available locally”.

Councils should also have a follow up conversation with a sample of the people they have helped to ensure the solutions offered have helped people to find resolution to their problems,” the report said.

The report also set out a series of indicators for measuring performance. For managing demand through the front door, it said councils should consider the percentage of people who go on to receive a full social care assessment – which should be approximately 25% of new enquiries – and the percentage of people who receive a care package after that assessment – which should be about 90%.

‘Deskilled workforce’

Another of the six steps set out in the report was to develop a workforce that was fully trained and supported to work with people needing social care. It said one of the “biggest losses” from budget cuts was the training and development of staff, which had left workers deskilled.

It recommended that councils and providers should regularly consider whether staff have the skills and expertise needed to maximise independence, support people to regain confidence and to reduce the need for longer-term care services, where this is appropriate.

“Staff will need to learn how their care can lead people to greater dependency and how they can manage risk to assist people to move towards greater independence,” the report said.

The report was co-written by consultant John Bolton, formerly director of social care finance at the Department of Health.

His co-author, IPC assistant director Philip Provenzano, said an “asset-based” approach, where the focus is on people’s strengths, not on what they can’t do, was key.

He said: “The report emphasises the importance of person-centred, outcome focused approaches, knowing that this is about an individual’s strengths, their local community and how the most effective services and support can be designed around them.

“Practitioners come out of university full of this knowledge and good practice, but often their local systems, processes and in some instances, capacity, have distracted them from it.

“We need to continue to engage service users, social workers, service providers and commissioners to better understand what’s important to the service user and how the design of services, the assessment, support planning and reviewing processes all work together to make sure we’re all talking about delivering good outcomes.”

The other four steps to manage demand included in the report are:

  • Managing demand from acute hospitals.
  • Effective short-term interventions for people in the community.
  • Designing the care system for people with long-term needs.
  • Governance and management arrangements to sustain improvements.

4 Responses to Councils ‘wasting resources’ on social work assessments, report finds

  1. A Man Called Horse March 24, 2017 at 12:56 pm #

    Sounds like a lot of big society waffle to me. an Asset based approach and community, not sure anyone knows what he is talking about. What is the agenda here, sacking social workers? Assessment of need has always been the core of the job. Social workers do not create dependency, believe it or not some people actually do need services support which is being withdrawn because of cuts and Austerity.

    Time for those needing support to tighten their bootstraps and stop taking from the state. The Workhouse is first on your left as you leave the building.

    How about an end to Austerity, how about cuts to Adult care is stopped. How about people fight back against the sort of rubbish talked above.

  2. Steve March 24, 2017 at 7:59 pm #

    The stats quoted here would not be accurate for specialist learning disability teams.

    I’m also not quite sure that this approach fits with the Care Act principles. This sounds more like old fashioned screening (to avoid needing to spend time bothering doing a holistic assessment). It mentions taking an asset based approach above. This means to an assessment, not screening… which done properly is what will stop people coming through a revolving door, saving time and money in the long run… not just giving an illusion of savings.

    Oh and of course social workers will just give services away if they complete an assessment… utter nonsense…

    Anyway, the reality in adult social care these days is that most assessors aren’t actually social workers, they are staff that have been trained (sometimes) to follow social work processes, which is to simply to assess, then care plan, then review. If you want to bring back good old social work, then employ registered social workers. It would also help to stop de-professionalising social work at higher levels by bringing in non social workers at director, AD, strategic management and manager levels. If this is allowed to continue, social work to be run and shaped by non social workers, probably accountants and commissioners. I just hope that the new registration body does something about it before social workers become a scarce resource in adult social care!

    Principle social workers! I hope you’re paying attention! Stand up and be counted and champion the role of social workers at all levels!

  3. Longtime SW March 27, 2017 at 9:50 am #

    Well said A Man Called Horse.

    Where Social Care organisations, LA & NHS will be ‘wasting’ resources will be in paying ‘consultancy’ fees to private businesses (you know the main suspects by now) – the ‘Report’ that will be provided will be a re-hash of old stuff about ‘efficiency’ through ‘cutting bureaucracy’ and surprise surprise those same businesses will ‘offer’ to provide a service ‘cheaper’ which means paying staff minimum wage, ‘redeployment’ with no commitment to keeping terms and conditions and the appallingly named ‘gig economy’ on compulsory zero hours ‘contracts’

    Fight back – refuse to co-operate with such nonsense as outlined above

  4. Planet Autism March 29, 2017 at 3:09 pm #

    Not to mention of course children’s social care conducting unwarranted and sometimes unlawful investigations against innocent families. That has to waste vast amounts of public funds and takes resources away from families that really do need such investigations to protect children, not to mention the trauma caused to the innocent families.