In the last 20 years, several attempts have been endeavoured in the United Kingdom to reform the Adult Social Care system, but after 12 White Papers, Green Papers, various consultations, as well as five independent reviews and commissions, the system is far from efficient and the state is, one may say, almost at “tipping point”: action can no longer wait.
To understand where the problems and solutions stem from, we ought to first clarify what the Adult Social Care system entails. This provides advice, care and support to adult individuals with a wide range of needs, from disability to mental or physical illness, to a broad variety of life situations.
It assists people living as independently as possible, protects people from harm in vulnerable situations, balances risks with rights and provides essential help. Support is offered in people’s own houses, residential and nursing homes or other community settings.
“I feel the capacity to care is the thing which gives life its deepest significance”
– Pablo Casals
How is Adult Social Care organised in England?
In the UK, Adult Social Care has been formally devolved from the late 1990s. Among the four, England is the nation with the highest number of privately owned market providers, with around 78% of adult care being carried out by publicly contracted private sector. Moreover, England is the least generous nation, spending on average £303 per person, compared to £428 in Scotland, £396 in Wales and £461 in Northern Ireland. This often results in care being delegated to unpaid carers, generally family or friends. It is estimated that this is the case for 5,4 million people in England.
Which challenges is Adult Social Care facing in England?
Unmet need is not the only menace endangering the English Adult Social Care system. In fact, there are multiple threats it is exposed to, such as:
- Funding gap: this is estimated to account for £4.4bn in 2023/24. At the same time, councils have lost 60p out of every £1 in UK central government funding since 2010.
- Ageing population: in 50 years’ time the number of individuals aged 65 years or over will roughly reach a community the size of London. By 2066, they will account for 26% of total population. This corresponds to an increase of complex needs, more likely to encompass long-term conditions, physical injuries or cognitive health issues.
- COVID-19: number of excess deaths have increased significantly among care home residents and among people receiving domiciliary care during the pandemic. Furthermore, quality of care has been negatively impacted.
- Overworked and underpaid staff
- Disjointed care
- Inequalities of provision
Demand surge, unprecedented pressure on services, undervalued workforce, limited resource. Which future is awaiting the Adult Social Care system?
New technologies’ role in tackling Adult Social Care issues
Despite the obvious difficulties, there are still reasons to confide that a path of accessibility and sustainability has been set off in the last years, thanks to the application of digital technologies to the the Adult Social Care system. These can represent a game-changer for the system, as evidence shows that machine learning is already enhancing services efficiency and effectiveness in this area.
However, this process needs to occur at a wider scale and needs not to be restricted to IT specialists, tackling mainly three areas:
- Data sharing: to overcome siloed information, since “in too many cases, ineffective coordination of services was leading to fragmented care”, as highlighted in the 2017-2018 report by CQC
- Workforce planning: to make sure available human and financial resources match increasingly complex needs
- Connected devices: to implement the use of assistive technology to help older adults living longer independently at home
Indeed, machine learning bears the ability to quickly and affordably collect, analyse, and visualise vast amounts of data. In Adult Social Care, this can translate into the chance of predicting which individuals are going to be at risk and making data-driven needs assessment and interventions.
An innovative tool to address the Adult Social Care crisis
Trilateral Research has developed STRIAD, a modern machine learning based approach in tackling social problems. Our UK and IE-based enterprise’s ongoing work includes interdisciplinary projects that explore and anticipate the new technologies’ ethical, legal, political and social impact. Trilateral’s ambition is to deliver sustainable innovation that enhances societal wellbeing by addressing vulnerability in several domains such as children exploitation (CESIUM and Patch), human trafficking (Solebay), conflicts and crisis (HAMOC).
Our STRIAD solutions can be tailored to different contexts to gain insight by identifying patterns in data. To find out more about it, contact us for more information.