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Joel Trounce

Managing demand – it’s all about outcomes

There is sometimes an assumption that demand management is a simply a way of diverting people away from local authority funded services in order to save money.

However, while it is a key lever for improving financial sustainability, creating better outcomes for residents is fundamental to the way we approach demand management at IMPOWER. The savings we are most interested in are those that result from improving outcomes.

Our experience from working with local authorities across the country is that the widest benefits of demand management come when there is a whole-system approach to identifying how the best suited support can be accessed. In relation to Adult Social Care, this includes ensuring that all front doors are aware of how to respond to varying levels of support to prevent and delay the escalation of need. This requires relationships to be built in order to fully understand and utilise the wider system offer from the voluntary and community sector, charities, health partners and other local authority services.

Where demand has been managed effectively, we have seen positive system-wide impact and a shift in the behaviour of staff towards utilising people’s strengths and the assets available in the community.

Below I have listed some of the key benefits of managing avoidable demand.

For individuals looking to access support

  • Appropriately supports people to access and engage with their community to build, maintain and maximise independence
  • Reduces the dependency on restrictive (and often intrusive) formal commissioned care through alternative solutions such as technology or short-term intensive support focused on reablement and skills development
  • Provides a better quality customer journey by managing expectations early in line with eligibility and proportionality

For staff

  • Reduces the level of demand into long term teams, allowing more time for frontline practitioners to focus on supporting complex and challenging cases
  • Ensures that people coming through to teams looking for support will have already accessed community solutions and engaged with alternative support

Local authorities

  • Ensures that local authority resources are targeted to people most in need of support
  • Care and support plans will utilise partner support to create a robust package of care, reducing risk of single point of breakdown
  • Reduced pressure and demand on local authority services where support can be met with alternative solutions

With social distancing restrictions limiting access to services, the positive impact of identifying and effectively responding to avoidable demand is clearer than ever. There are plenty of examples of demand successfully being managed remotely:

  • Through proactive phone and video calls to people whose needs might be escalated as a result of day services closures, with the idea that interim support could be accessed to prevent, reduce or delay future needs
  • Utilising local and community volunteer services to provide wellbeing support where families or friends might now be unavailable
  • Ensuring relevant information and advice is updated and reflective of local restrictions to support both staff members and those looking for support

Nonetheless, it is important to recognise that effective management of avoidable demand cannot just be ‘switched on’. Implementing and embedding strength-based approaches across teams, services and partner organisations requires setting an inclusive ambition across the system – one which explicitly identifies better outcomes for people as the key driver for change.

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