Latest Socitm Better Connected report highlights problems with integrating information from third party service suppliers
Less than half of English local authorities are complying with best practice in providing information and guidance on social care, according to a new report by public sector IT association Socitm.
The latest survey from its Better Connected programme, taking in 152 council websites, has show that only 41% provided a good or very good service for the task, compared with 52% for a similar task in the previous year’s survey.
In addition, only 24% of the sites made it easy to find providers of personal care services such as dressing and washing, 32% to find gardening or shopping services, and 44% had information on community based social support.
According to the report, part of the reason for the decline in good results has been that the tests has been extended from general provision of information to how it was to find on specific services.
One of the main reasons services are hard to find is that, as part of their response to the Care Act, most English councils have invested in directories of services and providers for ‘self-funders’ whose families may be seeking these services on their behalf.
Most of these directories and e-marketplaces are built on third party platforms provided by social care IT suppliers, with a small minority of councils providing in-house built and maintained directories. The survey revealed significant problems with the functions of the directories and e-marketplaces, such as with search, filtering and categorisation, and the quality, completeness and currency of their contents.
A further problem is a failure to properly integrate directories with the adult social care pages on the main council.gov.uk website. This impacts their findability in Google searches – seven councils’ online provision was not found at all - and prevents users finding services via links from councils’ own websites. There are known to be some directories that have been discontinued because of lack of visitor numbers, says the report.
It does, however, highlight examples of councils providing well implemented and integrated social care directories. These include Barnsley, Cheshire East, Croydon, Herefordshire, Sandwell, Staffordshire; and Wigan.