New research by the Learning Disability Alliance Scotland has found that most councils in Scotland are now rejecting the pseudo scientific idea that complex social care needs can be translated into a single number (like the discredited IQ Score) and bringing back the judgement of professional social workers into working out social care needs.
18 out of 32 councils are now running an Equivalence model in their area. Only 12 councils are running the points based RAS in their areas and 1 of these only does it for people with learning disabilities. 2 councils have yet to decide what to do.
“Equivalence” is a system that relies on the judgement of a professional social worker to establish the level of a budget. They decide what support they would normally provide to a person with social care needs and then monetize that service so that it can be offered in the form of an indicative budget.
They start from the basis that it cannot be right to set a budget at a level unless there is good reason to believe that this level is reasonable and that someone could get their needs met with that budget.
Equivalency helps to show that the budget does reflect some real model of how a need might be met. In this system Self Directed Support gives the opportunity to the service user to meet those needs in a way that is even better for them than might originally have been done. They retain the option of asking the local authority to arrange a service of the “equivalent standard.”
Those councils who are developing Resource Allocation Systems are seduced by the simplistic appeal of the principle of people with similar needs requiring similar amounts of money. But it is likely to not work in social care where social care needs arise from the complex interplay of many factors. Such systems are seen as the antidote to the ‘professional gift’, whereby the large variations in how much people get was put down to the behaviour of professionals. There is a lack of supporting evidence for this view. Anecdotes in themselves are not sufficient.
But perhaps the biggest concern is that such systems can build in distrust between councils and services and even their own staff. Two councils told us they would not be giving us details on how their Resource Allocation System would work because services users would use this information to get higher scores and get more support than they need.
Edinburgh City Council said “In order to try and ensure that the indicative budget is based upon an objective assessment of need, staff have no knowledge of the scores attached to specific elements of the assessment or the relationship between scores and financial amounts.”
Moray Council said “If disclosure of this information was made individuals could use this information to increase their scoring and obtain a higher budget unfairly. It would be likely that some individuals would use such information, which would undermine the scoring system and fair monetary allocation. This likely abuse would, in turn, substantially prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs.”
It is hard to see how Self Directed Support can be based on trust and co-production when local authorities believe that those vulnerable adults who need care and support are really aiming at “gaming” the system.