Headlines: February 9th, 2009

Five local councils have been taking part in the pilot of a web-based marketplace designed to help people manage their individual budgets online. The system is now close to being rolled out across the country and now In Control, the organisation behind the Shop4Support trial will work with local authorities to adapt the system to their specific needs.

The scheme was piloted by the five councils, 121 individuals and 20 service providers. Findings from the trial indicate there is a demand for the system, which offers a cost efficient, versatile online infrastructure. It is described as a unique portal allowing people to manage their budgets online, order services, make payments and seek information and advice. It has been developed by In Control in partnership with eProcurement business Valueworks.

One key outcome was that the system achieved significant administrative and back-office efficiencies within local authorities and service providers. Wigan Council, for example, identified a 65 per cent time saving per year per individual. Other councils involved in the pilot said Shop4Support enabled the rapid implementation of individual budgets and found the system was easily integrated with their existing software.

Some participants were anxious about possible consumer confusion if local authorities adopted a variety of ePortal approaches but the new system was considered to be an effective solution providing a national framework but allowing each council to meet their local requirements.

Caroline Tomlinson, Consumer Support Director at In Control said feedback had been extremely positive. The pilot had involved a broad representation of the adult social care sector and she said their contribution has been invaluable. “It is also encouraging that two of the pilot local authorities have already suggested that Shop4Support will underpin their delivery obligation to self-funders under the transformation agenda. We will now be working closely with local authorities and organisations to identify the processes required to adapt Shop4Support to their specific needs and deploy it across their operations.