Under the Care Act, Local Authorities understand their responsibilities to manage the local market place. It ‘sets out duties on local authorities to facilitate a diverse, sustainable high quality market for their whole local population, including those who pay for their own care and to promote efficient and effective operation of the adult care and support market as a whole.’
Managing data to enable this responsibility has always been a challenge. Data on quality, demand and finance has never been in one place and Local Authorities don’t always have access to data from neighbouring authorities. This results in the inefficient and timely gathering of data, that is often out of date and inaccurate, with no joined up approach to support Local Authorities’ respective market pressures and how they influence one another.
As a quality assurance and commissioners’ group, Barnet Council knew they were ready to make improvements to the way they collected and utilised data to support these responsibilities. As a result, this Local Authority were one of the early adopters of specialist technology.
Barnet chose a Social Care Landscape tool which connects Councils and Providers digitally. The system replaces manual monitoring and enables market intelligence, quality and financial data to be brought together in one real-time place.
Collaboration is really important as Barnet Council work closely with other Local Authorities including Enfield, Islington, Camden and Haringey, as well as participating in the London ADASS Region ‘Market Insight Tool’. The tool enables them to work regionally across Local Authority boundaries, with Providers only having to be assessed once and information shared across the region.
Many Care Providers are commissioned by more than one authority and the group are all able to easily access the same information. This is one solution that provides a platform to assess and analyse outcomes and standards of care, together as a group of commissioners, by using an evidence-based approach.
All of the Providers receive ratings and this highlights any areas where they should be doing better or are at risk. Barnet Council have been able to improve the way they engage with them, when issues arise, and this in turn allows to better support the team to improve service delivery and offer training or business support to make improvements.
As a group, the Council were perhaps all a little concerned about how Providers would adapt to using any new piece of software. To ensure they were all prepared they held a series of engagement events, with the support of the technology provider. This allowed Providers to ask plenty of questions, in preparation for how they would use the platform, and for sharing the benefits that would be seen once implemented.
Having an easily adaptable software solution was needed to ensure Barnet have been able to make changes based on feedback from the team as they use it. Providers have commented that being able to view their information, and receive feedback from, is extremely positive. It has certainly improved the dialogue between Council and Provider and enabled them to agree their ratings and action plans.
Another benefit is that once an assessment has taken place, the information can be shared with other Councils, via the London ADASS Market Insight Tool, avoiding duplication and improving efficiencies for both the Local Authority and Provider, without having to do further inspections. All Providers are rated in the same manner so gives consistent outcomes that are more common across the local area market.
The way information is recorded has seen many improvements, with all information now in one accessible place and easily trackable. This type of resource management has empowered Barnet Council longer term, with insightful reports and dashboards – a realtime view of Providers’ performance and ratings. This insight highlights risk, but also an overview of progression of any monitored areas. They are also able to create a snapshot picture of the marketplace and better utilise resources, as well as being able to justify any decisions made and the impact of any interventions.
The pandemic was unprecedented but the technology continued to provide benefits, even during the most challenging times. The cohesive and accessible nature of the solution allowed Barnet to continue to engage with Providers remotely, with no disruption, uploading information through lockdown and whilst working fully remotely.
Going forward, this way of working will continue to provide benefits to all who use the tool at Barnet, and enable future proofing of quality for any potential crisis or emergencies. Using the insight now available to them enables both Provider and Local Authority to be more proactive, and is empowering the Council to work cohesively with Providers to improve care quality for local citizens.
Local Authorities have the ability to use a comprehensive approach to market management, shaping and quality assurance, as well as the additional benefit of demand forecasting. In addition to savings and efficiencies, it will empower evidence-based decision making and transparency, alongside meeting legislative duties.
This case study was shared by Ben Chance, Head of PAMMS at The Access Group.
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