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Home > Regulation > UK Regulation

Chronic lack of information in social care sector: report

Information on the costs and quality of social care is impossible to compare and often not available, a government report has found.

By Julia Bradshaw | Published Apr 25, 2012 | comments

In a 44-page report on the government’s agenda to improve transparency, the National Audit Office said many adult social care users do not have the information they need to make informed choices about care providers.

Any information that is provided is so “varied in scope and completeness” that it makes it difficult to compare information on different providers, limiting the benefits of providing information.

The report said: “In education the department collects and reports appropriate information to support parents in choosing schools. In social care, by contrast, neither the department of health nor its funded bodies collect and publish appropriate information on the comparative costs and performance of providers of home care (community-based care) for adults.”

The report went on to warn that, with the government’s objective for all those eligible for ongoing community based social care to be given a personal budget by April 2013, “appropriate data and information must be available” to give these users greater choice and control when choosing services they buy from public, private or third-sector providers.

It said basic information about care providers, comparable information on the quality of providers and information about the price of care services was often lacking.

The report said: “Information supporting choice of community-based care services is very varied across local authorities. If expanding user choice is to result in more cost-effective service provision, users will need a broader range of comparable information to inform their choice.”

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said giving access to public information would improve accountability and economic growth.

The report echoed the views expressed last month by industry players and politicians at a debate on the future of long-term care, specifically for self-funders.

Andy Burnham MP, shadow secretary of state for health, called the existing care system “the most cruel of all lotteries” because what people pay for care and their experience varies hugely, depending on where they live, the policy of the local council and the care provider.

Chris Horlick, managing director of care for Partnership, said the government must provide clear and correct information on care.

He added that it was particularly important for self-funders who make up more than 40 per cent of people in care homes and often fall back on the state because they deplete their funds.

Andrew Page, financial planner and long-term care specialist for London-based Ashcourt Rowan, said: “Care is unlikely to ever be free due to the pressures of an ageing population. There should be a general public awareness programme to encourage people to prepare for the potential costs of care.”

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