I’m grateful to Simon Bottery from Independent Age for a reminder of a suggestion which was being made in the run up to the last Green Paper (or was it the one before?!) that the key to targeting early intervention effectively for older people is simple. There are 1.3m older people receiving £5bn of Attendance Allowance. They have been assessed as needing low level support and their AA is intended to be a bit like a small personal budget for prevention. Once they receive the money, that’s it. No link from the DWP’s assessment processes to their local council of voluntary sector, let alone a linked offer of support to plan for crises, strengthen families, or build resilience. AA is cheap for DWP to run and it’s non-intrusive for recipients. But whilst recipients may choose to buy support of some kind with their AA and almost certainly appreciate getting it, it’s hard to find evidence that AA as currently delivered makes a significant positive difference to their resilience or the risk of loss of independence.
So it would be wrong to introduce new bureaucracy or even worse, labyrinthine shared IT systems. But is it inconceivable that the AA process could involve an invitation to give permission to share contact details with agencies able to help, with the DWP and councils working together to offer people in that group who wanted it access to a little support? With some of our partner agencies we’ve argued for some time for a more open-door approach to the ‘front end’ of social care, with people able to get support which doesn’t speed them into ‘service land’ but does help them to plan and lower their risk of increasing dependence. Amongst older people, many of the people for whom that kind of support would be most relevant will be AA recipients.