Co-creation to support social care reform

Connecting puzzle pieces

Digital shift to reform social care

Social care reform requires the collaboration of communities, services, and government officials towards a shared vision. It is no secret that there is a growing funding gap in Health and Social care and the necessary reform will cost the Government and the Taxpayers tens of billions of pounds. This is in part due to the care industry being highly interdependent on a vast range of services with distinct specialities, responsibilities, and challenges. Current systems are not optimised to support the sector, as many have not been designed in collaboration with the users. 

 

When Haelu partnered with Cliniconex and brought Automated Care Messaging to the UK, care services and people who draw on care and support were under immense pressure. Like many, the Haelu founders wished there was more they could do to further support people accessing, and those providing, care and support services.

 

While there are a growing number of digital solutions entering the market, manual, outdated, and inappropriate systems continue to drain valuable time and resources. Haelu is passionate about designing tools alongside health and social care users to meet their specific needs. 

 

As a startup with a passion and drive to support health and social care with technology, we believe that co-creation is key to sustainable change, especially in a sector that works best with collaboration across services and stakeholder groups. 

 

We are taking our time to engage with a range of stakeholders from across the health and social care landscape to ensure we build an interoperable tool that is designed to meet the user’s needs. That is why our mantra is to have “open inboxes and open minds” and we are sharing our research online.

 

As one of the key practices that connect communities and care, Haelu will focus its attention on the needs assessment process.

Why need assessments?

Social care reform is multifaceted, and like needs assessments, requires the collaboration and support of people across health and social care services, and workers across a great many departments. The needs assessment process is just one of the vital services that require improvement, but one that Haelu believes can be supported with technology. 

 

There are two driving factors for Haelu’s research:

One of the insights that hit home was an Age UK report published in February 2020, highlighting how 700,000 older people requested formal care and support but had to go without it. 

One of the insights that hit home was an Age UK report published in February 2020, highlighting how 700,000 older people requested formal care and support but had to go without it. 

Another key challenge identified was how best practices for assessing and reviewing needs, such as those outlined in the Care Act, needed adaptation to accommodate for the pandemic. The Care Act 2014 indicated a shift towards the betterment of how care and support are accessed, assessed, and reviewed. However, the pandemic has demonstrated the associated risks with reliance upon manual processes. 

 

How can we build a solution that can support continuity of care and fair access to care that is sustainable even through times of duress? 

 

We are yet to completely understand the long-term impacts on health and social care services of reducing access to care and support services in line with the Coronavirus Act 2020. To support a reform of this process, Haelu is focusing on analysing the current needs assessment processes to identify which elements can be supported with technology to provide greater sustainability of this core service.

What is a needs assessment?

Numerous routes lead to needs assessments and so local authority social care services are often the first point of contact for a person seeking care and support. Needs assessments can be initiated by a direct request to the council, a referral by a medical professional, or through hospital discharge, making social services and needs assessments the bridge between healthcare and the community.

 

Typically, assessments are conducted by way of an initial in-person or telephone interview. The assessor refers to a survey or framework to guide their questions and gather necessary information about day-to-day life. Data collected is matched against criteria that will determine recommendations and the best course of action to support the person in their everyday life. 

 

Each assessment is conducted by or with the necessary professional from social services or the NHS and should result in a personalised plan based on the individual’s care and support needs identified.  

Each assessment is conducted by or with the necessary professional from social services or the NHS and should result in a personalised plan based on the individual’s care and support needs identified.  

The next step in this process is a means test. This is the financial element of the assessment which will determine whether the individual qualifies for care or support paid by the local authority. The way in which needs assessments are coordinated, and service users are supported, varies per local area. However, ensuring that citizens receive fair access to care while working within their budgets is a common challenge for every local authority in the UK.

 

To gain a holistic understanding of how to support this process with technology, Haelu is actively engaging with stakeholders from local authority social services, as well as associated services and of course, a range of service users.

Local Authority Social Services

Community Health Teams

There is an immeasurable number of root causes or reasons for a person requesting care and support. To ensure that purposeful care packages are created, social services and community health teams work together to accurately assess needs.  While social services often bridge the gap between citizens and care, community health teams form the bridge between NHS and social care services.  Like much of UK care services, how the workforce is structured, and how they coordinate and communicate varies greatly between the different local authorities and health boards. Each specialism brings their own experience, evaluating based on frameworks determined by their discipline. While some citizens might only need input from a social worker or a single specialist, others require input from many professionals to determine the best course of action, especially those with complex care needs. 

Community Health Team

Collaboration is key to building a future for the care sector that can support service users, the NHS, and the social care workforce. 

Collaboration is key to building a future for the care sector that can support service users, the NHS, and the social care workforce. 

Speaking to the specialists conducting assessments is critical to building tools that they can easily adopt to improve the work they do. That’s why Haelu will be speaking to people from across all disciplines working within needs assessments who would like to share their experiences, challenges, and best practice.

Needs Specialists

To gain a broad insight into the needs and challenges of different patient groups, Haelu will engage with professionals experienced in working with specific patient groups who can provide high-level insights about challenges that different people may have when accessing care and support services such as needs assessments. We welcome experts from across all need types to share their insights and experience on behalf of their needs group.

Needs Specialist

Carers, citizens and people who draw on care and support services

Who knows more about the experience of receiving a need assessment than citizens, people who draw on care and support services, and their carers? 

 

Welsh Government Funded Measuring the Mountain report provides an invaluable evaluation on the efficacy of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 from a user experience perspective. Among the key areas for improvement, the report highlights a need for improvement around access to information and support.

 

At its most basic level, the needs assessment process requires an individual to request or consent to an assessment and communicate with the individual coordinating or delivering the assessment. There are services available to support people through this process such as council-provided advocates, guidance material, and support helplines. 

 

Today, access to information includes both an individual’s access to their own personal health data, as well as the co-production and ownership of care plans. The increasing digitization of processes and services is integral to social care reform, which can, in turn, better support care providers and the NHS to improve care services that are available to the local community, all while reducing costs.

 

The co-creation of digital tools is vital to ensuring that they are fit for purpose and are built with sustainability in mind. Learning from citizens, people who draw on care and support services, and their carers are key. Some initial conversations highlighted key challenges with regards to the frequency of need reviews, assessment preparation, the limited scope of assessment methods as well as even the appropriateness of digital solutions available to support independence between assessments.

 

For those interested in sharing their personal experiences, please get in touch. Key areas of focus will be to map the frequency of support, frequency in changes that would ideally be communicated or recorded, impressions of the current needs assessment process, key challenges in daily life, and what tools are used to support this.

People who draw on care and support services

Carers

Get in touch

We are taking a holistic approach to our research and development. Co-designing to create an interoperable and adaptable solution to support a more accessible and equitable future for social care. If you have any insights or experience to share, we would love to speak with you.

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