Can real-time understanding of need save social care?


The landscape is looking very bleak for the future of our adult social services. At a whopping 40% of Local Authority spend, adult social care is not an area that can be protected from broader budgetary cuts. More and more local authorities are reducing services, some under the radar, but mostly in the public domain. A few weeks ago Newcastle Council announced it was planning to cut 30 full time social work posts in order to save £1.2m- not even denting the £30m total savings it needs to make this year.

The government’s recent decision to allow local authorities to increase council tax by 2% to fund adult social care, on top of a 2% increase to fund other services, means a very real 4% rise in taxes for many citizens this year. And it is not nearly enough. “…in Newcastle this will generate £1.7 million but this is nowhere near enough to address the scale of the financial pressures we face,” said a spokesperson for the council. Even children’s social care, previously hallowed ground, is not protected from cuts, with 6% of the workforce for the axe and a restructuring focusing services more on prevention.

One of Newcastle’s other budget proposals was to cut funding for telecare services to save £1.2m. Although introduced as a money-saving tool, the business case for classic telecare has still not successfully been made, despite significant government investment (see Whole Systems Demonstrator and DALLAS projects). “Telecare as implemented in the WSD trial did not lead to significant reductions in service use, at least in terms of results assessed over 12 months.” To us, this reactive model clearly doesn’t work.

It is refreshing to hear Newcastle talk about insight and prevention. “The way we deliver social care is changing and we are making much greater use of data analysis and insights to identify children and adults who are most at risk to help target resources to people who need our support most.

Only by taking a preventative approach can such significant cost savings be achieved, and services and their users not be jeopardised in the process. Prevention can only happen with the right insight, and that is where Alcove comes into its own. We can demonstrate real savings – money returned to commissioners or re-deployed to service more customers. Using the Internet of Things to create real-time alerts, allowing people to be remotely supported; provide data and insight into people’s behaviour so the care delivered to them can be dynamically changed based on real-time need; and use of connected devices to enable and re-able citizens rather than commission more hours of unaffordable and not always reliable domiciliary care.

Technology must be used to optimise rather than cut services – a system which works both ways. Firstly, get the right support to people when they enter the system. Then quickly spot when people’s conditions deteriorate and they need more support, or use as an evidence base to see the success of reablement or positive behavioural interventions, e.g. daily movement from bedroom to living room, and fridge opening in the morning before a morning carer visit, may evidence possible redeployment of that visit elsewhere. No need for rota’d checks because we know people are up and about, and the system flags if they aren’t.

And just to put your mind at ease, we aren’t leaving people more isolated by reducing levels of human contact. We are very passionate about using technology to better connect people so our new in-home device does super simple voice and video calling so you can have face-to-face chats with everyone from your daughter in Australia to the district nurse. Lifestyle nudges are used to help people help themselves wherever possible; messages or reminders can be sent by anyone in an approved network; and alerts are only raised if something really is of concern.

Care will always be a predominantly human-resource reliant sector (unless those pesky robots get a lot smarter and a lot cheaper), but the Internet of Things and the real-time insights it produces has a large role to play to improve people’s lives, save money and free up people to do what they do best - CARE.

Further details of the 10%+ cashable efficiencies we have achieved can be seen here plus we have delivered plenty of safeguarding benefits too.

Would be great to hear what you think.