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Crisis prevention services must be improved in England, report reveals

22-Feb-16
Article By: Ellie Spanswick, News Editor

A report published by the British Red Cross has suggested the local authorities in England should do more to improve the services available that prevent, reduce or delay the need for social care and support.

The report comes at a time when cuts are already being made to local authority services, with many facing closure or a reduction in services.

Titled ‘Prevention in Action’, the report recognises that ‘prevention is better than cure’, however current systems focus on providing crisis care, rather than acting to prevent a crisis occurring.

Policy and advocacy manager at the British Red Cross, Chloe Carter said: “Local authorities must continue to look for ways to invest in new and innovative preventative interventions but they can’t do this alone.

“At a time when budgets are tight, we urge the Government to look again at how to best enable local authorities to implement the Care Act’s new duties in a meaningful way.

"It is only through such investment that we can hope to increase and improve the provision of prevention services in England.”

In April 2015, the Care Act was introduced to change existing approaches to providing social care and made English councils responsible for preventative services in their local area.

The Care Act establishes a triple-definition of prevention, to support people to live independently at home. This includes, to prevent, to reduce and to delay the need for social care and support. The aim of the Act was to add clarity and ensure that preventative services are available to all patients and service users, at all stages of their illness or condition.

The report stresses that nearly 12 months later, the Care Act’s main vision of providing people with preventative services have not yet been achieved, seeing just a few local authorities and only 12 of 151 joint Health and Wellbeing boards, using the official definition.

More than 80 per cent of local authorities are developing or have developed their own local approach to prevention, and though some are performing well, including the London Borough of Bexley, the report raises concerns of a ‘severe lack of understanding, innovation and development’ across England.

The Prevention in Action report revealed that more than one third of local authorities had developed or were investing in new prevention services. However, the report found that in some cases, services that were cited as new, were often seed-funded by Government in the last 15 years. These included a handy-person’s services or telecare, these were services that should have already been implement before the Care Act was introduced.

The report urges local authorities to look for ways to invest in a broad range of intervention, despite existing budget constraints. While the publication stresses that without proper understanding of the duties required of them, local authorities cannot hope to provide effective services.

Furthermore, the report recommends that all Health and Wellbeing boards and local authorities should ensure they make use of the definition of prevention when preventative planning.

An Local Government Association (LGA) spokesperson said: "If councils are to be able to provide services that prevent illness and the need for treatment later down the line, then they need proper funding and investment from Government.

"We are concerned that the recent cuts to the public health budget could undermine the objectives councils all share to improve the public's health and to keep the pressure off the NHS and adult social care.

"Investing in prevention ultimately saves money for other parts of the public sector by reducing demand for hospital, health and social care services and ultimately improves the public's health."

The British Red Cross are calling for the Government to look at what resources are required to enable local authorities to implement new services to help to prevent, reduce and delay the need for social care and support.

Read the full report here or follow the discussion on Twitter using the hashtag: #PreventReduceDelay

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