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The power of data and its impact on the future of social care – how can we use data to challenge us?

With the need to improve quality, timeliness, and accessibility of adult social care data, local authorities face the pressing challenge of how they operate with data. We face an opportunity to take social care out of the norm, overcome challenges and bring the sector into the forefront of innovative care delivery.

In this challenging and unstable era, gaining actionable data insights that support quality and sustainability has never been more important to help local authorities plan, commission and improve the future of care services.

With the Health and Care Bill (2021) recognising the need to improve quality, timeliness, and accessibility of adult social care data, local authorities face the pressing challenge of how they operate with data in the ever-changing landscape of the digital age.

The future of social care could be much clearer – if it is data-driven. The power of data can be used as a tool to not only improve and change but to also challenge us as a sector and think outside the box to improve care services.

We’ve been witnessing an increase in average commitment value in homecare packages, as well as the escalating demand for community-based services. Higher demand and cost is resulting in added pressure on a struggling marketplace where recruitment is at an all time low.

The move away from commissioning bed-based services into community first is challenging when the sector is struggling to meet demand. If residential placements increase back to pre-pandemic levels, with the average weekly commit cost increasing by approx 20%, this will surely impact local authority budgets, and we enter a dangerous vicious circle.

This is where data can really inspire and empower, and bring back control. When analysed correctly, it can provide a 360-degree overview of the social care market, helping to better understand the care provision available to meet demand, and avoid any risk factors.

Rather than using data as a reaction tool, our relationship with intelligence must move into a more proactive state. By having access to vast insights, it allows trends to be identified, risks to be spotted, and actions to be taken much earlier than before, providing commissioners and directors with the opportunity to strategically make evidence-based decisions and to potentially do something out of the norm.

These last 18-months have acted as a catalyst for the social care sector, forcing many local authorities to make unprecedented decisions, that no one could have predicted. In response to the pandemic, as a support service to many authorities, we have witnessed the shift of more local authorities across the country beginning to adopt and integrate data to make strategic and informed decisions.

Local and regional government Quality Assurance framework and tools provide the ability to carry out real time analysis that drill down to specific areas of risk. One theme is around preventing and controlling infections; both in relation to Covid and also the upcoming seasonal winter pressures, including flu. Having local intelligence enables a pro-active and targeted approach to support those Providers most vulnerable and ensuring their workforce and service users are safe. When providers don’t achieve their good CQC rating, this can put individuals, and services, at risk. The PAMMS tool gives the commissioner the ability to identify these early warnings, proactively engage with their markets and avoid any firefighting when an outbreak occurs.

Every day, extensive amounts of data is collected yet so much of it isn’t used to its full potential. Despite the change of attitude towards data and technology the past year, we are all still very much at different points with our market insight journey.

While there are local authorities that are already embracing technology as part of their business intelligence strategy, there are still many that have not yet truly harnessed this beast, or are unsure of where to begin.

According to the ADASS spring survey, nearly two thirds of directors have stated their local authorities are adopting positive investment strategies for both digital and technology, demonstrating the ongoing rise and importance of this culture in our sector.

The King’s Fund earlier this year reported that there was a “clear deficit” of evidence on how digital technology is being used within social care compared to the wider healthcare system, and called for greater investment to close the gap. It attributed the shortfall to “often reshuffled” national leadership with a “lack of clear responsibility in many aspects of implementation or strategy-setting.”

It is a shame, yet again, that the sector is faced with this negative perception when we have such a skilled and committed workforce, who provide a valuable service to the community. We must begin to embrace data, turn it into valuable insight, and flip challenges on their head - with an opportunity to take social care out of the norm, and into the forefront of innovative care delivery.

For information on 'Turning Social Care Data Into Actionable Intelligence'- Download our latest Best Practice Guide.