Preventative spending for independent living

Empowering older people to live independently for longer, by delaying and reducing their need for care and support, is a really important outcome both for older people and for local authorities. It’s key for older people because being healthy and independent for longer is at the core of achieving a good quality of later life. It’s key for local authorities because, with an ageing population and dwindling council budgets, spending resources on early action to prevent acute problems is financially sound.

Councils are well aware of the need to be innovative in their approach to the challenge presented by our ageing population. There has been a broad consensus for some time regarding the part that investing in early action should play in this approach. However, actually implementing a preventative programme has proven a real challenge for local authorities. This is largely as a result of a lack of clarity around what constitutes preventative activity, how this links to outcomes and how much money councils spend on it overall.

With this in mind LGiU, with the support of Mears (a fellow Alliance member) and The British Red Cross, has piloted an approach in Camden Council (also an Alliance member), mapping their preventative budgets against this very outcome of keeping older people living independently for longer by delaying and reducing the need for care and support. This is one of the council’s key outcomes from the Adult Social Care Outcomes Framework.

The findings of the pilot project with Camden will be published in December 2013. Ahead of this, LGiU has published a step-by-step guide to the process that was taken to analyse Camden’s preventative budgets, called ‘Tracking your preventative spend: a step-by-step guide’.

This research will be relevant to all local authorities as they seek to understand how best to allocate resources. It’s urgent that local authorities start to invest in early action as they seek to balance growing demand for services with an era of reduced financial resources.

Very little past work has been done on the practicalities of tracking councils’ preventative spend, and so this project is the first step towards understanding how to approach such a task. The guide and the upcoming research should be of interest to all councils, as it concerns a universal aim: to improve the quality of later life for older people in our communities.

Josephine Suherman, Policy Researcher, LGiU

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