Helping self-helpers

 Wheelchair from backNottinghamshire County Council recently launched their new advice service for older people planning their own long-term care funding. It demonstrates the importance not only of innovative new services, but also of innovative new communication strategies.

Research, published earlier in the year by LGiU, highlights how critical it is for councils to provide greater support to self-funders of adult social care. The report, supported by Partnership, found that 24 per cent of self-funders fall back on state funding. In 2011-12, this cost councils £425m; over four times the £104m worth of service reductions that adult service departments will make in 2013-14.

And yet to a large extent, this is an avoidable problem. Councils can reduce the liability and cost of older people by helping people make the best decisions about their care.

To do this, however, councils must engage with self-funders through a range of different networks, including public and third sector partners. This is because the majority of self-funders do not engage with adult services departments. Nottinghamshire County Council, for instance, estimates that only 25 per cent of self-funders currently engage with the council. By contrast, older people will visit their GP on average seven times a year and many will be in contact with local voluntary groups.

To overcome this lack of engagement, Nottinghamshire County Council has therefore employed a number of communication tools in order to reach out effectively to self-funders and ensure financial advice is successfully signposted.

The council has recently launched a new freephone service, from PayingForCare, which enables older people to make informed decisions about the arrangements and funding for their long-term care. To ensure awareness of the new service, the council crucially engaged with health services. Leaflets promoting the service have been distributed to all 97 GP surgeries in Nottinghamshire. Going forward, the NCC Carers Fact Sheet, which is handed out by GPs, will include a new section for self-funders.

In addition, the council awarded a contract to Capita IB to develop a software solution that will monitor and record the occupancy and vacancies of beds within care homes in Nottinghamshire. Launched in March 2012, the web-based system enables people to check the spaces available at any one time in all care homes across the county.

The software instantly notifies the council when a self-funder has entered a care home and automatically reminds care homes of the importance of self-funders obtaining advice. The software also alerts PayingForCare that an unnamed self-funder has entered the care home and arranges for an independent care fees adviser to seek permission to meet with the new self-funder.

Between September 2012 and May 2013, 270 self-funders had been referred to and engaged with the information and advice service. Of this group, 58 have already requested financial information and advice – this equates to three times the national average, with 21 per cent seeking advice compared with the national average of seven per cent.

Innovative new services, such as Nottinghamshire’s new advice service, highlight important ways councils can provide better support to self-funders, but a diverse and proactive communications strategy will be crucial if we are to ensure effective awareness and take-up of such support.

The LGiU is hosting the fringe, ‘Self-funders and the future of social care’, at each of the Party Conferences this year. Please join us for this important conversation – more details are available here.

The full report, ‘Independent Ageing 2013’, is available here.