Headlines: September 11th, 2007

Councils have been told they need to take the lead in attracting investment to social care services that will meet people’s needs. The call comes in a report from the Commission for Social Care Inspection based on information from seminars with corporate providers, analysts, investors and national policy makers and with members of a regional care association.

“Safe as Houses? What drives investment in social care?” found there were opportunities for local councils to shape the pattern of all provision available in their area, not just that which they supported financially, to ensure there were personalised services people wanted. It found investors preferred tried and tested investment in care homes and that providers were often dependent on council contracts.

It concludes, too, that investors see social care in the same way as other businesses and look for a return on their outlay in seven to ten years, which makes them cautious about new models of care. To develop services that fit people’s needs now and in the future, it says, councils will have to be less risk averse in strategic commissioning. Authorities also need to track people’s individual preferences and work with partners in housing and health services to indicate future requirements to both investors and providers. Direct Payments and Individual Budgets, the report adds, offer more opportunities for services to be developed in response to individual wishes and it calls on councils and investors to take these and other opportunities to develop the social care market.

Dame Denise Platt, who chairs the Commission, said with providers often relying on councils for contracts councils needed to signal the need for new care services that really meet people’s needs. “Where councils lead, investors will follow,” she said, adding, “Too often there is a limited range of services available and offered to people. We need investors to look further afield than the safe models of care, to really open up the opportunities for all those who use care services now and for the future.”