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Computer Update For Dilnot ‘Could Be Missed Opportunity’

AN ADASS REPORT has called on government to clarify the situation concerning the rights of care home residents to use online forms on council websites to see if they might qualify for the care accounts being introduced as part of the new Dilnot arrangements for funding social care.

Currently, the legal position is unclear, and the report, written by the Association’s Information Management Group (IMG), argues that “in order for online self-assessment to be implemented, the government will need to make clear in regulations that this is legally permissible including what limitations apply.”

It goes on to examine the practical information system implications of the government’s proposed care funding reforms in the Care Bill currently going through Parliament.

The report says that an estimated additional half a million people will be contacting councils from 2016 for help with the costs of their care – mainly older people – due to the so-called “Dilnot Cap” on total lifetime costs that anyone will have to pay out of their own pocket.  The ADASS IMG report concludes that existing computer systems can be enhanced relatively easily to support the extra data.

However, it goes on to argue that a simple enhancement could miss an opportunity radically to improve local authority computer systems for greater efficiency.

Other functions could also be carried out online by people applying for a Care Account on behalf, say, of an elderly parent. They could record income and assets online to check if the council will contribute to care costs before the Dilnot cap is reached.

The current cost of adult social care assessment and review in England is over £2 billion per annum. If only 5 per cent of the workload could be carried out online by some people, that would represent a significant saving – to set against an anticipated 45 per cent increase in demand for eligibility assessments. Leading IT suppliers, though, are confident that their systems could be adapted to enable this.

Under the new duties of the Care Bill, councils will have to maintain a Care Account for anyone whose care needs are high enough to qualify – for the remainder of that person’s life.  The Department of Health’s consultation paper Caring for our Future proposes that councils must transfer quite extensive care information between themselves as people move residency.

Original research for the report suggests that a county council may have to handle 15 people every week moving in and/or out of their area with a Care Account. The report makes the case for making the transfer of that information electronic for security and efficiency reasons.  According to Richard Pantlin, the report’s author and a leading expert on adult social care information systems: “This could lead to other benefits such as the consistent use of NHS numbers in social care to facilitate better integrated working with NHS colleagues.

“Such a move would also fit in with the ADASS IMG `Web of Support` vision for adult social care informatics whereby all the different organisations involved in an individual’s care can safely share relevant data electronically with the person’s consent.”

Chair of ADASS IMG, Terry Dafter, says:  “This comprehensive report addresses most of the information issues that councils will have to overcome over the next two years to deliver the government’s care funding reforms. We are pleased to be able to make this contribution during the Department of Health’s consultation phase. The early engagement with the leading IT suppliers has reduced the risk of our information systems not being ready on time.”

The report’s full recommendations are:

* DH to clarify legal admissibility of online `pre-assessments’.

* ADASS, with the Local Government Association, to recommend processes for handling additional self-funder caseload more efficiently including online self-service option.

* ADASS IMG to assess options for electronic transfer of data.

* ADASS IMG to carry out cost-benefit analysis of options for local authorities to obtain verified NHS numbers.

According to Intellect* “The implementation of the Dilnot report presents significant opportunities but also some challenges for councils. Technology will play an integral role in turning the government’s care funding reforms into a reality when the Care Bill becomes law.

“Today’s publication of the Implementing Dilnot report on IT system implications will help to outline the current market position and raise key areas of action for all partner organisations who must work together to optimise this opportunity. Intellect is delighted to be part of this work and will help to bring together industry and local authorities to build a cohesive plan for information sharing across the social care network. We are looking forward to working with ADASS, the LGA and DH to take this agenda forward.”

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