By Stephen Sloss, www.myCareSupermarket.com
Running a well-managed care home is expensive and with the announcement of the living wage it’s not about to get any cheaper. However, relying solely on the government to make up for any financial shortfall isn’t a viable way forward. For the good of the sector and our users we need to diversify and make social care more sustainable. That’s why I think we need to see greater use of self-service service technology to attract more business from self-funders.
Right now around £14 billion of the money spent on social care each year comes from local government, with an extra £10 billion provided from private sources. In any other line of business having more than half of your revenue associated with a single investor is a cause for concern. This is particularly true if that investor is very publicly experiencing financial difficulties. So why should care be any different?
To put care homes on a better financial footing we need to substantially grow the share of income that derives from private sources. That means being visible not only to local authorities who commission services, but also to individuals and their families. Increasingly this means being highly visible online where those in need of care and their families are likely to research the available options.
Potentially it also means offering more innovative services that attract a wider potential market. For example, there are interesting scenarios to be considered around housing market equity release to fund alternative living arrangements in housing that is more suited to care.
This need for innovation is another reason why we must reduce our reliance on local authority commissioning, which inadvertently disincentivises care home owners from trying new things. Procurement actually does ask for added value and often claims to put quality above price, however so often it seems that price wins every time. It feels like box-ticking and is not addressing the severe decline in workforce trends for nursing and carers in homes. If it’s not attractive to work in the kind of care settings we are perpetuating, then how much less attractive must it be to live there too? I do not aspire to end my days in residential care in its current guise.
In line with the aims of the Care Act a better way forward is to enable every citizen and their family to become a private commissioner of care, with much more say over which care services best fit their needs. A prerequisite for this is a central marketplace where any individual can log-on to see what is available in their area. However, encouraging the take-up of direct payments could also help to tip the balance in favour of securing revenue from a more diverse base of users.
This is exactly what we hope to achieve with www.mycaresupermarket.com , a one-stop shop which brings together buyers and sellers of social care for the mutual benefit of both parties. However, the initiative can only reach its full potential if care homes of all sizes list themselves and get involved. Please do consider how it might help your business going forward as I’d love citizens to be able to make informed choices on who should provide their care support, based on a full consideration of the available options.