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Report highlights social care failings on council websites

Council social care teams responsible for meeting Care Act requirements to provide information, advice and guidance to the public are falling short of best practice in their online provision says the latest Socitm Better Connected report.

The report is based on a survey of websites for all 152 English councils that have responsibilities for providing social care services. The survey tested the quality of provision with a question set focused on the task 'find services to help elderly relative stay in own home'.
41% of councils were found to provide a good or very good service for this task, compared with 52% that did so for a similar social care task from last year, 'find local care support for older person'.
According to the report, just published and free-to-view on the Better Connected website the lower score this year is due to the fact that the councils were tested not simply on their general provision, but rather on how easy it was to find information about specific services.
The services in question are things older people may require in order to maintain their independence and stay in their own home, including washing and dressing, shopping, meal preparation, and gardening. Such services may be provided by private companies, charities and voluntary organisations.
The survey found that just 24% of sites make it easy to find providers of personal care services like dressing and washing, 32% to find gardening or shopping services, and only 44% information about community based social support services.
The report says that one of the main reasons services are hard to find is that as part of their response to the Care Act, most English and Welsh 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. Better Connected’s findings reveal significant problems with directory/emarketplace functionality (search, filtering, categories), and the quality, completeness and currency of their contents.
A further problem identified is 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 also 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.
However, the report does highlight examples of councils that are providing well implemented and integrated social care directories, providing good examples of online provision, including the use of directories, for others to follow. These are Barnsley, Cheshire East, Croydon, Herefordshire, Sandwell Staffordshire; and Wigan.
Results of the social care survey for the 152 English councils with social care responsibilities are now available. Individual councils can find their results from the council index page.
The ‘all council’ report can be found on the Better Connected website
The social care survey report follows last week’s report on library services (Scottish and Welsh councils) and will be followed by a report from our survey on parking services (district councils). February will see publication of three reports on different aspects of rubbish and recycling covering all council types. Results of stage one of the Better Connected accessibility testing were published in early January.
Better Connected Live 2018 will take place on June 27 in Birmingham.
Notes for editors
Better Connected is owned and was originally developed by Socitm. Since May 2015 it has been run in partnership with Boilerhouse Communications
Anyone can access ‘all-council’ reports and individual council headline results from Better Connected surveys on the website.