Councils urged to innovate on care services

Councils have been urged to step up to the challenge of creating modern services for older people. The Audit Commission called for an end to one-size-fits-all services and warned councils must innovate to save cash.

It’s latest report, Under Pressure, warned councils do not know enough about the costs of their ageing population.

Councils currently spend about £9 billion a year on care services for older people, such as residential care and home care services.

By collaborating to improve housing, health promotion and wellbeing, the commission argued the public sector could prevent the need for social care.

Michael O’Higgins, chairman of the Audit Commission, said: ‘Today’s older people grew up with supermarkets and self-service, and tomorrow’s will use iPhones and the internet.

‘Older people don’t want to become dependant, but councils need to help them help themselves.

‘Most older people live at home, not in care homes. And the longer they do, the happier they are and the less they cost the taxpayer. Innovative, personalised services mean older people stay independent longer, saving public money.’

Reaction from the sector was supportive.

The Care Quality Commission, which regulates care in England, said the demand for radical change was right.

Dame Jo Williams, CQC’s chair, said: ‘We all know that the context is changing. Trends such as increasing demand and rising expectations will be exacerbated by pressure on finances. That means we cannot go on as we are. To cope, we need some radical changes in the way that we organise and deliver services.

‘This means shifting the culture away from a one-size-fits-all approach to care that puts the needs of individuals and carers at the centre of everything. A key part of this will involve helping people maintain their independence and health.’

The Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) welcomed the emphasis on housing in helping older people to help themselves.

CIH chief executive Sarah Webb said: ‘Without a focus on the links between good housing and good health, governments will never achieve good quality of life, sustainable communities, or economic inclusion.

‘Nor will they reduce costs in the NHS. The poor health of an ageing population, pressures to reduce public spending, and the gaps between life chances of the richest and poorest are very challenging and affect the whole population.’