Review finds good use of web and call centres has significant impact on costs of adult care assessments
The Audit Commission says that councils can reduce spending on adult care assessments and reviews by improving web-based advice and assistance.
In a report on the value of money in assessments and reviews, it says that some councils are improving their websites so that “information is more streamlined and accessible”.
In 2010-11, councils spent £2.2bn on assessments and care management and carried out nearly 1.8m assessments and reviews of clients. The Audit Commission says this spending represents an average of 12% of their gross spending on all adult social care. This varies between 8% and 17% across all councils, however.
“Good information and advice for people who use services can reduce the time spent by staff in responding to telephone calls,” it says.
“Information can be confusing and badly co-ordinated. For example, we heard from the Care Services Efficiency Directorate that one council had produced over 70 advice leaflets.”
In 2008 Stockport council launched a new website, with the support of consultancy Quickheart. The website provides information on universal assessments, eligibility and financial assessments. It also offers a range of information for personal budget holders on the services that are available.
According to the report, people who would have previously abandoned the old website and telephoned social services are now more likely to find the information they need. Stockport believes that the website is saving £330,000 a year.
Call centres can save money by reducing the potential demand for formal assessments through providing accurate information and correctly routing enquiries.
The auditor warns that call centres can add to costs if the initial assessment closes down too quickly, or provides inadequate information that leads to poor decisions by people or their carers.
“This will generate costs later if councils have to intervene in emergencies, or when earlier action would have been
more cost-effective,” it says.
Hertfordshire county council’s call centre costs £1m a year to run, employs about 45 staff and the average cost of a call is £2. The Audit Commission says that the call centre has generated “significant savings” by resolving queries immediately or routing them to the right place first time.
Andy McKeon, the managing director of the Audit Commission, said: “Assessments and reviews are a crucial element of social care, enabling individuals’ needs to be properly identified and met.
“However, our evidence suggests that councils can spend less and still do an excellent job in helping people receive the care that they need.
“As councils struggle to meet the needs of a growing older population with less cash, any opportunity to save money and redirect it into care should be pursued enthusiastically.”