No-one can deny the storm brewing over adult social care (ASC). The pressures of increased life expectancy and decreased budgets bearing down on existing services are set to result in a ship wreck that will cost lives, let alone the chance to live out our later years in comfort.
Cutbacks and setbacks
Budget cuts have forced councils to draw purse strings tighter and tighter. Services have been affected and people have suffered. The government’s promised Green Paper on how to fund and deliver an effective ASC system is already stymied by promises not to impose a levy on the estates of people who die (Labour’s derisively termed ‘death tax’) and the perception that substantial council tax rises are deeply unpopular.
£2billion of opportunity
The extra £2billion over three years that Philip Hammond’s 2017 spring budget allocated to local authorities for social care is welcome, but this sum will just plug the holes temporarily. Setting it against the £16.97 billion councils spent on social care in 2015-16 puts it into context . We need a sustainable, long-term strategy to fund services, and hopefully, the Green Paper will provide answers. In the meantime, the £2billion does give councils breathing space and the opportunity to invest for the future rather than just fight fire.
A report carried out by Community Care in 2014 detailed the measures councils have been forced to take to meet budget cuts. Examples ranged from restricting adult care packages to increasing the proportion of disability allowance that people have to pay for services. Other savings included cuts to the hours of care people received, including respite. Depressing as it is, the drive for efficiency will certainly continue.
Savings on contracts
The cost of supplies to ASC is ever under the spot light, with the Community Care report citing renegotiation of supplier contracts as a key way for councils to cut costs. A large number of contracts are outsourced to the private sector, and for example, in 2014, Barnet council believed it could save millions just through renegotiation with private suppliers. Investing in new processes and procedures to manage supplier contracts is critical.
Local authorities across the country are looking to deploy reliable software that can help them manage the purchase of goods and services efficiently. Panacea offers solutions for print and design activities. For example, Camden council has been using Panacea Software for this since 2005 and has cut expenditure on such work by 48%. Bolton, Luton and Haringey, to name just a few, have similarly slashed their print and communications bills without compromising performance. A number of local authorities in London and the north are currently considering using Panacea to manage all their contracts with external supplies across all departments, including ASC.
Best prices, now
The software gives buyers instant access to live quotes from approved suppliers. It is appropriate for any contract that relates to frequently ordered supplies, be that daily, weekly or more infrequently. It is fast, efficient and transparent, streamlining the process of buying services and products whereby reducing the cost of finding the best prices available at any one time.
Access and accountability
Local authorities handle huge numbers of contracts. Processes need to be as efficient as possible as well as wholly transparent. Using Panacea’s client catalogue, supplier approval for contracts, purchasing process and reporting, users can view a central database of contracts with differing levels of access depending on their roles. Everything is recorded in one place so accurate and dynamic reports can be generated at any time.
Bringing services in-house
A further effect of budget squeezes is that external suppliers are increasingly handing contracts back to councils due to the tiny margins they are able to make. As such, councils need to be able to fulfil their own contracts with as much efficacy as possible. Panacea Software offers flexible and intelligent solutions for project management, account management, procurement and reporting. It is modular and easy to use, helping local authorities manage expenditure and resources. In 2014, Buckinghamshire County Council pulled its entire print and design buying process in-house. Using Panacea Software, the communications team manages a huge volume and variety of work for their colleagues. It has received extremely high client satisfaction ratings while achieving savings of 46%. There is no reason why these impressive statistics shouldn’t be emulated in other departments.
Adult social care should be about people, not money, but we are where we are. Things may improve if new funding streams can ever be agreed, but meanwhile providers need solutions not more questions. Panacea offers local authorities proven ways to meet growing needs with dwindling resources across a wide range of activities.
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