Ideas to stimulate and sustain innovation in adult social care provision

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The demand for adult social care in the UK is rising and will continue to rise, but the supply of such care is struggling to keep up. Innovation in social care can enable more and better care to be delivered more cost-effectively.

What is the issue?

Age UK estimated in 2018 that 1.4 million people – nearly one in seven of the population over 65 – are living with unmet care needs. The growing gap between the need for social care for older people and the provision of support is rising and will continue to rise. Part of the solution to this issue is increased public funding, but another way to more closely match the provision of social care to the demand could be through innovation.

RAND Europe was commissioned by the Power to Change charitable trust to examine the demand and supply for social care for elderly adults in England and to explore opportunities to innovate in providing that care.

How did we help?

Through research and a roundtable workshop with independent experts and providers of community-based adult social care, our researchers collected ideas for innovation that go beyond improving the efficiency of existing care services, valuable though that would be. Our focus was on how to stimulate and sustain innovation that changes the ways in which adult social care is provided.

What did we find?

The workshops identified important ways innovation in social care for older people might be supported, for example through:

  • Promoting the adoption of principles for supporting local innovation rather than the adoption of specific models of care delivery
  • Utilising ‘smart’ regulation to support innovation and spread learning
  • Recognising and harnessing the value of volunteering to the volunteers as well as to the service users (‘reciprocity’)
  • Situating social care as part of the local economy
  • Deepening our understanding of the potential for technology in social care

What do we recommend?

Policymakers could stimulate innovation in social care by:

  • Utilising both the experiences and preferences of those receiving care and the wisdom of care providers
  • Exploiting new technologies to provide quicker and more relevant information
  • Focusing on reducing the burden of isolation and inaccessible services that push people, often prematurely, into formal care
  • Encouraging and socially rewarding participation beyond ‘traditional’ informal care to encourage wider kinship