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Healthwatch Gloucestershire releases new report on enhancing social care assessments and support for local people

by | Oct 25, 2023 | Healthwatch Gloucestershire, Local Healthwatch

In its latest report, Healthwatch Gloucestershire uses feedback from Gloucestershire residents to answer the question: 'How can people’s social care needs be better assessed and supported?'

In response to public concerns and confusion surrounding social care, Healthwatch Gloucestershire undertook a public engagement project to understand people’s experiences of Gloucestershire County Council’s (GCC) Care Assessment process and how it could be improved to better support people’s needs.

The report sheds light on the challenges faced by individuals needing care and their unpaid carers, providing valuable insights into the strengths and weaknesses of the current system.

Key findings:

  • Timely support is crucial: Frequently, individuals reach out to Adult Social Care in moments of crisis, necessitating swift information
    and support.
  • Navigating social care services: Many people find it challenging to understand and access the array of social care services available, highlighting a need for improved user-friendliness and accessibility in service information.
  • Assessment terminology: The use of multiple similar terms like Care Assessment, Care Needs Assessment, Initial Assessment, and Social Care Assessment can lead to confusion and varying interpretations.
  • Information about the Care Assessment process: Many people are unaware of the process and approximate timescale for obtaining a Care Assessment, deterring them from seeking one.
  • Clarity in communication: The GCC website could benefit from clearer language and navigation, ensuring accessibility to a wider audience.
  • Consistency is key: Inconsistent communication and experiences can lead to vastly different outcomes for individuals.
  • Empowering individuals: It’s essential to ensure that individuals are aware of their right to have someone support them during all calls and meetings related to the Care Assessment.
  • Reducing repetition: The repetition of personal stories to multiple professionals can be exhausting and discouraging for individuals seeking social care support.
  • Named contact for queries: Providing individuals with a designated contact person can facilitate smoother communication and reduce the need to repeat their story.
  • Lack of support for self-funded care: Individuals self-funding their care reported a notable absence of information, signposting and ongoing support, from the GCC Adult Social Care team.
  • Unmet needs: There is a significant risk of people in need of social care support, and their unpaid carers, having unmet needs. This can lead to deterioration in health and increased demand on health care services.

In the report, Healthwatch Gloucestershire recommends several actions that GCC can take to address concerns raised around communication, information, consistency and access to social care. The recommendations are designed to benefit local people and also to ensure GCC is meeting its legal duties under the Care Act, three of which incude: to prevent, reduce and delay people’s needs from getting worse; to provide information for local people about care and support; and to provide a range of services for people to access.

Announcing the report, Lucy White, Healthwatch Gloucestershire Manager, said: “We set out to listen and learn from those who seek support from social care services, so that we can make clear and impactful recommendations for change to enhance the Care Assessment process and social care support provided to Gloucestershire residents. We want GCC to consider and implement these recommendations to develop a more inclusive, accessible, and supportive social care system for individuals and unpaid carers in need.”

Emily White, Director of Quality, Performance and Strategy, Adult Social Care at Gloucestershire County Council, has welcomed the report and responded in detail to the recommendations for improvement, commenting: “This report provides us with more evidence to support our improvement plan and approach. We are aware of the challenges faced by people who use our services, particularly in relation to our capacity to meet demand. Our new Customer Experience role within our Transformation team will help to address some of the recommendations in relation to information accessibility and how we communicate with people and their families and carers in a simple way about the Social Care Process and what to expect.”

Read the full report, including people’s stories and comments, and Gloucestershire Council’s full response.

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