Audit Commission urges social care savings of £300m

People inside a day centre for the elderly The commission said there were wide variations in the costs of assessing clients

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Councils in England could save £312m annually on adult social care if they carried out client assessments more effectively, the Audit Commission says.

The public spending watchdog said some councils conducted reviews at the same quality as others but more cheaply.

The commission said any chance for councils to save money in this area should be "pursued enthusiastically".

Councils said efficiency savings could not offset a shortfall of billions of pounds in care budgets.

'Crucial element'

Every council in England is responsible for helping with the care of the elderly, the seriously ill and the disabled.

But the cost of assessing these people, to find out what level of assistance is needed, varies widely.

In 2010/11, English councils did about 1.8m assessments of people's needs and reviews of the resulting care, at a cost of £2.2bn - 12% of gross spending on adult social care, the commission said.

Audit Commission managing director Andy McKeon said: "Assessments and reviews are a crucial element of social care, enabling individuals' needs to be properly identified and met.

"However, our evidence suggests that councils can spend less and still do an excellent job in helping people receive the care that they need.

"As councils struggle to meet the needs of a growing older population with less cash, any opportunity to save money and redirect it into care should be pursued enthusiastically."

Quality standards

In its report, the commission found that some councils spent about half the amount of other councils on each assessment and review.

This was done, the commission said, while undertaking a similar volume of work and achieving the same standards of quality.

It said the potential savings could fund the annual home care of 20,000 older people.

Many councils would be able to make significant savings by identifying and eliminating the causes of differences in costs, it added.

The Local Government Association said councils were always working hard to offer the best value for money.

But it said local authorities faced a massive cash shortfall because of reduced government funding and an increasing elderly population.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 231.

    Wondering if this is a precurser to getting rid of qualified social workers and bringing in unqualified staff to carry out assessments and reviews. This was carried out in the authority i work in with disastrous results and it has been a very costly excercise to remedy. Any social worker will tell you less paperwork and more time with people would make them more cost effective

  • rate this

    Comment number 230.

    Cynical Dave

    "The problem with elderly care is that it is extremely expensive compared to other services provided by the state"

    Its not as expensive as providing lawyers for the likes of Abu Qtada

  • rate this

    Comment number 229.

    Why don't they give all the NI and taxes the old have paid to ATOS as a hundred million pound contract to do the assessments. Then nobody will be deemed old, sick or needing care! Infact they could be fit for work!!!

    Yer couldn't make it up, but with Dave and his mates in charge watch this space! Tally-ho chaps off to the hunt!

  • rate this

    Comment number 228.

    #210 They outsource audit work to the main accountants not right wing think tanks but the reports such as the one the BBC have commented on still have to be approved (and probably written) by the audit commission.

    The audit commission is politically independent - but never let that get in the way of a good conspiracy theory

  • rate this

    Comment number 227.

    Care for the elderly is a national scandal surpassing the banking scandal and the politicians expenses. Nobody is saying it should be free but a dementia diagnosis appears to be a green light for the state to pillage hard earned money. It is relentless whether its local authorities, courts or the Office of the Public Guardian. My father paid tax for his entire working life - where did that go?

  • rate this

    Comment number 226.

    The truth is that inheritances help older people to survive in old age, given the paltry state pension, now to be paid out later and later. Take inheritances away and the 65 year old children of dying 90 year olds will face a grim future indeed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 225.


    The problem with elderly care is that it is extremely expensive compared to other services provided by the state. If someone needs 24/7 care costs can run into tens of thousands per year, equal to the tax take from multiple working age people This isn't sustainable in an aging population. Pushing the cost onto those who can afford it prevents the whole system from collapsing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 224.

    @209 Cynical Dave
    The people who suffer most from having to pay their own care costs are the ones who have a house and a pension that dies with them. Mrs Thatcher promised 'wealth cascading down through the generations' but acquiesced in a system that strips wealth away from people who have little and need a lot to pay for their end of life care.

  • rate this

    Comment number 223.

    The main thrust of this article is about the inefficiency and hence financial wastes operating the service, not about rights or otherwise to free social care.. As is often the case nobody is concentrating on what is being said and are just using it as a soapbox to churn out their own banalities. The ratings emphasise the point. Sic Semper.

  • rate this

    Comment number 222.

    Yeah, if this Audit Commission is as good as the auditors that vetted the Greek accounts before letting them into the eurozone, may heaven help us all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 221.

    Local authorities & the NHS need to work better together in the interests of the patient. People are often the last thought when the agencies are arguing among themselves about whether care is social or medical with both trying to palm the bill off on the other.

  • rate this

    Comment number 220.

    @199.Doctor Bob

    Yes the loss making sale of the bank assets was a move typical of government (Brown and our gold reserves, Thatcher and almost everything else - including DERA, Water, Gas, Electric...) The people that benefit from these sales are the rich - which is of course exactly why the rich become politicians and do it - so they can be richer without working

  • rate this

    Comment number 219.

    The current system isn't joined up. NHS doesn't seem to speak to Social Services and vice versa. There are so many different agencies involved - public and private - is it any wonder the system is SO bad. Don't our elderly deserve to be assessed quickly and then given proper support and adequate care. In 2012 a 'keep fingers crossed and hope nothing happens approach' is a national disgrace.

  • rate this

    Comment number 218.

    Creation of NHS = Increased Life Expectancy = more NHS spending + Care for Elderly + higher pension obligations = a whole lot more cost than was anticated by Bevan. Subsequent governments ingnored the equation and prayed growth or oil would balance the books. Fact is despite current high levels of tax previous tax takes were woefully insufficient and the problem continues to grow.

  • rate this

    Comment number 217.

    A lot of those companies who took over care homes from the state, only acquired them for the ground they were sitting on, which was paid for by the local people and belongs to the local ratepayers and the difference between the original price and the sell on price should be returned to the council. As far as looking after old people, they can be as difficult as looking after children and dangerous

  • rate this

    Comment number 216.

    @209. Cynical Dave:

    So what you're saying is that those who have frittered their money away on rubbish should have their care homes paid for, while those who have saved up and been frugal should have to pay for themselves.

    This is irrational.

    Means testing is one of the stupidest parts of the welfare system. Everyone should contribute and everyone should benefit, just as any insurance system.

  • rate this

    Comment number 215.

    Attn 207; Audit Commission is a very expensive QUANGO. If you don't beklieve me, Google "Is Audit Commission a Quango" and you'll see for yourself...........

  • rate this

    Comment number 214.

    The article says, 'the potential savings could fund the annual home care of 20,000 older people'. This doesn't make sense. You're either eligible or not eligible for residential care, therefore how would the extra money fund more places unless they dropped the thresshold? Typical sloppy journalism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 213.

    Oh what a surprise, more bullying and neglect of the disabled from the unelected Tory government (plus "liberal" lap dog). Stop targeting the most vulnerable of us and start making the ones most responsible for this mess actually suffer some consequences for their actions!

  • rate this

    Comment number 212.

    May I respectfully suggest that if councils carried out their assessments of elderly needs more efficiently, they would almost certainly find MORE needs, not less, and that more money would be needed to pay for services they don't currently even bother to budget for/


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