The case for change - funding innovation in social care

Allan Bowman, Chair of SCIEIt's not enough to throw money at the problem. We need long-term commitment, planning and the intent to collaborate before we can ask care providers to risk their neck to introduce the innovation that is so vital for delivering care tailored to individuals, with quality outcomes, and in the quantity required.
Allan Bowman of SCIE (Social Care Institute for Excellence) points out that it’s not enough to throw money at the requirements to fund care for older people and those with a disability; we need to consider whether the capacity is there to deliver care at the right quality (reported in Guardian Public magazine [1]). Of course this doesn’t just apply to social care for these groups – it applies to all public services where the care will be provided by a mixture of public and independent providers (ie pretty much everything). Care is constantly evolving, getting better (whether this means more tailored to individual need, giving outcomes that meet a higher criterion of health and well being, more effective use of limited resources, or all three). However any change costs money – requires that pioneers develop the new enhanced service. The mantra at the moment is to learn lessons from overseas – but with USA trying to be like UK [2], and many other countries with no real concept of publicly funded health and social care, where will we learn these lessons? Public sector commissioners used to rely on charities for innovation. But charities are increasingly reliant on an income from the provision of specific services[3] and have less left over for testing out new types of working[4]. There’s a vital need to invest for innovation – the funds have been made available but without the security of a funding stream many organisations are simply unable to commit to building the capacity which will provide services of appropriate quality, and enough workforce to provide the capacity, We found [4] that the expectation is smaller organisations are more agile and likely to innovate, whereas they don’t have the capacity to deliver the volumes local authority requires. An ideal solution would be to contract with a consortium of suppliers required to collaborate, so some can focus on innovation and sharing, whilst others can provide the vital services. But getting innovative organisations to share their intellectual property, and service providers to share their income, is proving tricky. I’d be delighted to work specifically with the following groups to bring together groups of public service commissioners and existing and innovative providers to build a consensus and prepare for an innovative service:

Charities which commission personal care and health care services
Capacity builders and those who fund innovation
statutory commissioners eg Local Authority, Social Care, NHS

References
1. Dudman, J., Social care professionals cautious over new funding plans, in Guardian Public. 2009, www.guardianpublic.co.uk: Internet.
2. Porter, M.E. and E.O. Teisberg, Redefining health care : creating value-based competition on results. 2006, Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business School Press. xvii, 506 p.
3. Minney, H. Innovation - Case for Investment in Social Care. Performance Improvement and Outcomes Realisation 2008 [cited 2009 16/07/09]; Skills for Care workshops in North East]. Available from: http://minney.org/benefits_third_sector.
4. Minney, H. Commissioning Innovation. Performance Improvement and Outcomes Realisation 2008 [cited 2009 16/07/09]; Available from: http://minney.org/Commissioning_Innovation.

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