For councils, preventing issues before they’ve arisen makes sense. Short-termism, and dealing with problems at the acute end of the spectrum, not only leads to poor outcomes for individuals in many cases, but also to huge expense and escalating costs in providing services. There has been a broad consensus for some time on the importance of investing in early action.
However, actually implementing a preventative programme has proven a real challenge for local authorities. This has to do with a number of barriers, including the culture within public services, increased demand on acute services, the need for huge budgetary savings and the desire from councillors to see a return on their investments during their term in office. But arguably the most significant barrier to prevention is a lack of clarity around what constitutes preventative activity, how this links to outcomes and how much money councils spend on it overall.
With this in mind, LGiU, with the support of Mears and The British Red Cross, has piloted an approach in Camden Council to mapping their preventative budgets against one of the council’s key outcomes from the Adult Social Care Outcomes Framework: to keep older people living independently for longer, by ‘delaying and reducing the need for care and support’. The focus on this outcome is particularly timely, given the transfer of public health responsibilities to local authorities.
Whilst the findings of the project will of course be useful for Camden Council in understanding its preventative spend, the approach LGiU has used to identify these findings will be of use to all councils interested in preventative measures. LGiU has therefore published a step-by-step guide to the process that was taken to analyse Camden’s preventative budgets, called ‘Tracking your preventative spend: a step-by-step guide’.
The guide, launched this week, covers establishing a project sponsor and steering group; identifying and agreeing aims, objectives and scope of project; understanding the outcomes; mapping preventative services for the chosen outcome; and analysing and mapping budgets.
Whilst authorities considering undertaking a similar exercise may have different values they wish to reflect in their process, and different outcomes they want to measure, this toolkit will help them to think through how they will approach mapping preventative spend in their area.
You can listen to a podcast on the guide here.