Only councils can support greater independent living under new reforms, report finds


Tens of thousands more adults could be supported to live independently in their own homes each year, but only if councils are able to continue to deliver social care services under government reforms, according to a new report.

The Future of Adult Social Care report, conducted by care specialist Newton and commissioned by the County Councils Network, outlines a new blueprint for delivering social care in England that supports individuals to live as independently as possible.

It says this would help deliver £1.6bn nationally in financial benefits per year by reducing care costs, on the condition that councils are put in the driving seat to reform local services.

There had been speculation last year that the government was considering stripping councils of their responsibility for care services, exploring the option of care budgets and commissioning becoming the responsibility of the NHS.

A recent leaked report also showed that the government is planning to give ministers more control over health bodies in England.

Newton concludes that only councils, working with their partners – including the NHS and providers – can deliver the wide-ranging blueprint for services.

The report outlines new ways of working and improved practices for local authorities, care providers and the NHS in what Newton terms an “optimised local delivery model” to help transform services for many of the 1.4m people who approach councils each year for local authority arranged-care in England.

Newton says this can be achieved through a mix of interrelated improvements, including better long-term commissioning of residential and home care; greater collaboration between councils, the NHS and care providers; investment in reablement services; maximising the use of the voluntary and community sector; and embracing digital transformation.

However, the report warns that this model can only be delivered if councils are given the clarity of a long-term funding model for care, due to be outlined in the government’s long-awaited green paper.

The report shows that at least 90,000 additional older adults each year could benefit from greater access to short-term services, such as reablement, to reduce or prevent their need for long-term-care. This, coupled with services being more effective, could reduce care costs by £867m a year.

Around one fifth – 10,800 – of older adults who go into long-term residential care each year could also be supported to live in a more independent setting, such as their own home, saving £178m a year.

But for service improvements to be realised, Newton said that “several foundations” must be in place through the government’s long-awaited social care reforms. These include setting out plans for a long-term funding solution for adult social care. Parity of esteem with the NHS is also called for, with social care getting a more prominent voice in local decision-making, and more campaigning to raise the positive profile of the sector with the public.

Cllr David Fothergill, health and social care spokesperson for the County Councils Network, said: “This year, we could finally see the government’s long-awaited proposals for reforming care services in England. This must set out a long-term funding solution but also be clear over who is best placed to deliver services for the most vulnerable in our communities.

“The evidence presented in this report is compelling: only councils, who know their populations and their providers, have the means to deliver improved social care services to keep people independent for longer. Social care is best delivered as a local service and local authorities have the connection to their communities to truly transform local care for the better.

“This report recognises that if government finally delivers sustainable funding for councils, we can work with health partners and care providers to deliver improved commissioning and financial benefits which could be reinvested in local services.

“In exchange for more funding and local decision making over services, a new co-designed performance framework could also help provide reassurance to government that these improvements are being met.”

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