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ICSs should consider digital social care provision as well as health, says Commission


By Jess Hacker
23 March 2021

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Integrated care systems (ICSs) should consider digital social care provision alongside digital health provision in their strategies, a Commission has recommended.

In a report on integrating technology into social care, the Commission – led by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) and the TEC Services Association (TSA), found that not enough local authorities or care providers were making use of the available technology.

The report said that more collaboration is needed so services and policies are joined-up and contribute to the wider wellbeing of people – and suggested that including digital social care provision in ICS strategies would be one way of achieving this.

It added that  data sharing between public services ‘must be improved to support better commissioning and population health management’ and recommended that the Government ensure health and care organisations can share data to improve outcomes.

Extent of digital inequalities

Over the past five months, Commission members have collected evidence from nearly 60 people including people who use social care and their relatives, frontline care professionals, directors of adult social care, housing and health leaders and technology suppliers.

The Commission said it identified some examples of best practice but concluded that digital projects are ‘rarely joined up and turned into intelligence to prevent people reaching a crisis’.

The report also noted that the pandemic has highlighted the extent of digital inequalities in the UK and how digital exclusion is impacting negatively on many people who use care services.

‘We need to enhance digital skills for individuals, their carers, families and practitioners to facilitate the ‘prescription’ of enabling technologies,’ it said.

The Commission called on the Government to fund a two-year programme of 10 social care innovation projects to ‘begin the process of normalising the use of digital within social care’.

Best practice from the programme – proposed as the ‘Personalised Care Innovation Programme’ – would then be rolled out to all 151 local authority adult social services departments in England to create a ‘national, digitally-enabled social care system’, it said.

Replace care and housing infrastructure

The commission also called on the Government to urgently invest £450m capital funding to replace care and housing infrastructure.

‘In exchange, councils would commission integrated care and technology responses, which leverage consumer channels and their technologies,’ it said.

It also recommended that the Government ensure all new homes are ‘care ready’ and designed for digital accessibility.

Iain MacBeath, strategic director of health and wellbeing at City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council and ADASS Honorary Treasurer, said: ‘Truly integrating technology with adult social care has eluded most parts of the country. There are some shining examples, but it’s rarely connected or proactive.

‘This Commission has sought to understand why this is and how we can change it. We are recommending that new, digital skills should be brought into councils, different tender specifications must be used, and that the Government future-proofs technology infrastructure through proper investment.’

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