Monday 23 October 2017
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Huge gap in local authorities meeting deadlines

The Cambridge-based information provider for families and adult social care, Opportunity Links, has conducted a probing survey that shows lack of resources and fragmented information mean there is a split among local authorities in meeting government deadlines for adult social care information: 12% are already fully delivering services but 40% have not yet developed their strategies.

The new ‘personalisation’ of social care puts more power into the hands of individuals in determining their own care. This strategy depends for its success on providing them with high quality information and advice, as requested by the Department of Health against three key milestones (see below). Without the right information and advice, individuals are in danger of being confused and under-informed about how to access crucial services.

Opportunity Links’ survey, sent out in June, asked all top tier local authorities (LAs) in England about their progress in meeting government targets for the provision of adult social care information and advice.

The milestones
The survey asked about LAs’ progress on the first two of the Department of Health’s three milestones for ensuring universal access to information and advice (I & A) services. They are:
Milestone 1. April 2010 (I & A strategy created);
Milestone 2. October 2010 (I & A arrangements fully in place);
Milestone 3. April 2011 (public to be fully informed).

The results
The survey found overall that authorities had made some progress: 12% are ahead and have already started delivering their services but over half are months behind. 40% have not even achieved the April 2010 milestone of developing an information strategy, and some authorities have not even started to think about a strategy. Furthermore, one third has received no funding, or is unaware funding is available.

(See ‘Key findings’ below, and the full survey at www.opportunitylinks.co.uk/ASCsurvey.htm)

Most have made progress in identifying local information needs but no single activity has been fully completed by more than 30%. Beyond the need for more resources, over six in ten LAs felt that what they needed most was practical advice to develop and implement the information strategy.

Opportunity Links is concerned that, without effective information and advice services in place, local authorities will face problems next year in delivering the personalisation agenda. “If it does not have the crucial underpinning of high quality information and advice, the personalisation agenda may face real difficulty as many people could end up confused and fail to understand their options or access services they need. This is the opposite of what is intended, and could end up costing authorities more in the long run”, said Harriet Mathie.

The survey was unusual in that, unlike similar surveys, it asked the views of middle rather than senior management, and drilled down into the detail. “To get a full impression of the situation,” said Harriet Mathie, Strategic Policy Manager at Opportunity Links, “we felt it important to consult with those who are involved day to day with trying to develop information and advice services in the right way to support often vulnerable adults”.

Opportunity Links offers strategic and operational support to local authorities, as well as providing well-designed online information systems, by which LAs can give key information to adults needing social care. In response to the findings of this survey, Opportunity Links is offering a range of free activities aimed at supporting all LAs over coming months, such as:

• A set of practical events in September to support progress towards the milestones and explore ongoing mechanisms to underpin development
• Publication and distribution of a further two editions of its “Information Matters” policy briefing documents
• Disseminating case studies to share learning nationally
• Work with key stakeholders to develop understanding and profile of I&A services.

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For all media enquiries, please contact Laura Cavaliere or Sue Curtis on 01223 566522, or email enquiries@opportunitylinks.co.uk

Key findings
(See full survey at www.opportunitylinks.co.uk/ASCsurvey.htm)

Findings on milestone 1:
Many authorities (LAs) had fulfilled the requirements of the April 2010 deadline, many had not:
• 60% of LAs have hit the target with I & A strategies in place;
• as many as 40% have none in place
• 16% were not even at the planning stage
• most have made progress in identifying local needs but no single activity has been fully completed by more than 30%.

Findings on milestone 2:
Three months before this October deadline, Opportunity Links would expect good progress towards:
• governance arrangements being in place (40% to 69% have succeeded);
• services being commissioned (16% have succeeded);
• data gathering and management (success very varied);
• staff training to have started (4% have succeeded).

The challenges
The LAs were in broad agreement about the two main hurdles to them delivering the information strategy:
1. 39% cited lack of resources (funding, staffing and capacity);
2. 18% cited the wide range of information to collect, and the fragmented nature and high number of service providers to contact.
Unsurprisingly, concerns were also expressed about the wider economic climate and sustainability of services.

The solutions
Beyond the need for more resources, over six in ten LAs felt that what they needed most was practical advice to develop and implement the information strategy.