Ministers have told councils to protect the frontline from spending cuts by outsourcing more services, cutting care management costs and shifting resources out of residential care into the community.
That was the message from the government’s vision for adult social care, published today.
It repeated the government’s conviction that councils had no excuse to reduce eligibility for care, despite a 28% cut in funding from Whitehall from 2011-15, partially offset by a £1bn a year shift in NHS resources to adult care.
However, the vision said this required councils to “redouble their efforts” in achieving efficiency savings in adult care. It said in-house provision should become “exceptional” and be replaced by services provided by social enterprises and mutual bodies, to improve competition in the care market and drive up quality.
It also called on councils with high numbers of residential placements to invest in services that prevented admissions, such as telecare and reablement, and said authorities needed to strip “inefficient, unnecessary processes” out of care management, in order to redirect resources to the frontline.
It also said they should spend more on supported employment for younger disabled adults, reducing spend on day centres.
The vision includes a number of proposals for the adult care workforce, including:-
- The opportunity for adult social workers to form independent practices to manage the care of older or disabled people from next year.
- A workforce development strategy for adult care, which will be produced later this year by Skills for Care.
- A strategy on developing the market in personal assistants, which will be produced next year.
- A leadership strategy, which will be developed by the National Skills Academy for Social Care.
On safeguarding, the government said it was undecided over whether adult safeguarding boards should be put on a statutory footing to give them more teeth, a move backed but never enacted by its Labour predecessor.
However, the vision included an implicit criticism of many existing safeguarding boards, saying that only “some” currently provide “coherent local leadership, vision and strategic direction” that it described as “essential” for safeguarding.
It also contained a number of plans based on the government’s Big Society philosophy to give the public, service users and community groups a greater say over services.
It warned that council tendering processes could be disadvantaging smaller and micro providers and said it would examine any barriers. It also urged councils to “critically examine their arrangements” to ensure small social enterprises and user-led groups can “compete to deliver personalised services”.
The government also pledged to examine barriers to the pooling of health and social care funding and called on councils and NHS bodies to pool and align funding streams as far as they could.
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Special report on the National Children and Adult Services Conference