Social workers face significant changes to case recording requirements

Government provides councils with £11.8m to implement changes to social care information requirements, part of which will go to training frontline professionals.

Social workers in England face significant changes in case recording requirements on the back of reforms to the information councils must submit to government on adult social care.

Care services minister Norman Lamb today announced £11.8m to help councils implement the changes in information requirements for this year and next, covering areas including safeguarding enquiries, the provision of short and long-term support to people by councils and finance.

The money will fund changes or upgrades to IT systems and training for frontline staff in the different recording systems that will be required. In addition, the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), which collects the information, will provide support to councils in making the changes through national and regional events and a dedicated mailbox through which it will answer questions. 

The changes are the outcome of the “zero-based review” of council adult social care data requirements initiated in 2010 and led by the HSCIC. This was designed to take account of changes in the delivery of social care – such as the development of personal budgets and reablement services – and to ensure that the information councils were required to collect was of use to both government and to councils themselves.

Changes coming into force this year cover information collections on safeguarding adults, the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards and Guardianship under the Mental Health Act 1983.

Greater focus on safeguarding outcomes, not processes

Unlike its predecessor, the new safeguarding adults return collects no information on safeguarding alerts that do not lead to a referral, and hence an investigation, and far less on referrals that are not concluded during the year.

It is also designed to measure the outcomes of safeguarding activity for victims of abuse or neglect, rather than the processes that councils use to protect people. The previous abuse of vulnerable adults collection required social workers to record whether they implemented measures such as increased monitoring, a community care assessment or a referral to advocacy. However, the new collection asks practitioners to record instead whether the activity resulted in reduced, removed or unchanged risks for the adult.

Next year, existing collections on social care activity (the referrals, assessments and packages of care and combined activity return) and finance (personal social services: expenditure and unit costs) will be scrapped in favour of new returns.

End to client group recording

An overarching equalities and classifications framework, which will apply to all other collections, will specify that practitioners should record information about service users by their primary reason for support and reported health conditions, not by their client group as now.

Reasons for support include physical support – which is divided into personal care and access and mobility – support with memory and cognition, sensory, learning disability, mental health and social support; the latter covers carers, people who misuse substances, asylum seekers and those suffering social isolation.

“Primary client group [recording] puts those individuals into one, inflexible box for counting and monitoring purposes, and someone (usually the social worker) has to make decisions as to which one,” says guidance published by HSCIC. “The new approach is that the primary support reason is determined through assessment. As a client’s support needs may change over time, the primary support reason should be re-examined and, if required, updated as part of the client review process.”

Recording of activity will also change to take account of the significant expansion of reablement in recent years and to record what happens to people who contact their council for support and are dealt with through short-term preventive support that does not require an assessment. It will also track clients’ journeys through the social care system, rather than recording activity statically.

The new short-and long-term services collection will record  how many people who contact their council receive no service, reablement, signposting to other services, ongoing low-level support such as telecare or end-of-life care, or are referred for a community care assessment long-term council-funded support.

Among people receiving long-term support, the new return will track how many people have received unplanned reviews, detailing what caused these reviews and how councils responded to them.

‘Outdated’ data

“The data we currently collect from local authorities about adult social care is outdated has not kept pace with the transformation into the new care and support system,” said Lamb. “The new data will help us to see how each council is performing in delivering better results for people in local communities who use care. This will give councils the information they need to deliver care and support that is integrated, personalised and responsive.”

Katharine Robbins, social care programme manager at the HSCIC, encouraged councils to seek support on implementing the changes.

“The key thing to emphasise is that councils should be aware that support is already there,” she said. “We are aware that there’s quite a variation in how engaged councils are in the new collections and we’d welcome more input from those who have been less involved.”

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