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Jeremy Cooper

Why I was nervous about ‘Which councils are best at adult social care?’

I have to admit to being somewhat nervous a few weeks back when the MJ published our analysis of which councils are best at social care, including a list of the top ten performers. I hoped that people would not simply look at the list, but would also engage with the message behind it. Five weeks on, I am really pleased with the response.

In publishing our analysis, our ambition was to achieve three things.

  • First, to help move the sector towards developing its own definition of what good adult social care is. Our article was the MJ’s most-read story in the week that it was published, receiving the same level of interest as IMPOWER’s overall council productivity ranking when that was released in November 2018. This shows that we have tapped into a widespread interest in understanding what good social care looks like.
  • Second, to widen the debate beyond simply the amount of money available within local government to what is being achieved with it: the outcomes achieved per pound spent. Lots of people have been in touch with us as a result of the article. As well as (completely understandably) wanting to know where they are in the ranking, most have also been interested in understanding the mechanics behind our assessment. There have been interesting and differing views on the best metrics and weightings to use, and how best to account for factors such as deprivation. We were pleased, however, that there has been a strong level of acceptance of our basic argument that we should focus on outcome productivity.
  • Finally, we wanted to encourage councils to engage with debate about variation in order to strengthen their case for increased funding. This one is going to be the main challenge over the coming months. With or without a Social Care Green Paper, and with or without a special focus in the Spending Review, the issue of social care funding will continue to grow. I believe that the more the sector can strengthen its understanding of real variation, the more compelling the case will be for increased funding. This means being confident enough to expose both the level of justifiable variation (due to the legitimate use of different policies or because of demographic factors) and unjustifiable variation (ie genuinely poor performance).

The debate has started – but we hope it will continue.

Please do get in touch with me if you’d like to know your own council’s ranking and discuss measuring good adult social care in your own terms, and/or you would like to get involved in further debate about variation.

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