Online financial assessments
Online financial assessments allow individuals to self-serve their social care financial assessment, leading to many beneficial outcomes for both the individual and the local authority.
Many individuals contact their local authority to identify what their cost of care may be, and whether they can get support with these costs.
As a first point of contact, having basic information for online financial assessments is imperative for good customer service – allowing the individual to identify quickly whether their savings will have an impact on their contribution. This means that individuals who will have to pay their full amount of care do not have to go through the complete process if they do not wish to get their care services via their local authority.
Whilst providing basic information and advice online for individuals is a good start, having a comprehensive online financial assessment on offer will provide local authorities with the ability to streamline their service, creating efficiencies and financial savings, whilst benefiting both the service user and staff.
There are many benefits to going digital with social care financial assessments.
Going paperless provides considerable time savings
The current method of using a paper-based form is time consuming for both service users and Financial Support staff. The paper form is necessarily detailed and long (in order to capture all the information) and potentially quite complicated to follow. For example, some sections are only applicable to some users and/or depends on answers given to previous questions. Getting the right evidence can be time consuming and can often require follow-up communication (e.g telephone calls/letters) with the service user.
An online financial assessment form has the ability to capture all the data required to process an assessment in a self-serve model. This can be securely delivered into and automatically populate the relevant care management system, avoiding the need to re-enter data into separate systems. Supplementary evidence would be in an electronic format already – saving considerable staff time as well as aligning with council aims of going paperless.
The introduction of an online financial assessment platform would enable claimants to self-serve where they are able to. One of the outcomes of this is a shorter lead time between starting and completing the financial assessment process – in many Local Authorities, Direct Payments can only be awarded once the financial assessment has been completed.
A result of using an online financial assessment platform like BetterCare Finance is a shorter lead time between starting and completing the financial assessment process, which means claimants won’t have to wait as long to receive Direct Payments.
Giving users visibility and control - reducing failed care package rate
Many financial assessments do not give the individual control or visibility of the process determining the future of their care. Often individuals do not have a sense of what their financial contributions may be prior to receiving the care.
Online financial assessments speed up the process, meaning that individuals are able to get an idea of their likely contribution – reducing the volume of failed care packages and providing an open and transparent service for users. For comparison, Kirklees Council dropped from 24% to 16% within 6 months of launching BetterCare Finance.
Monetary gains is about looking at a person’s financial situation and helping them to maximise their income. This is a requirement of the Care Act and by ensuring that a person is receiving all the benefits to which they are entitled it not only improves their personal situation but also brings more money into the local economy as a secondary benefit.
Most local authorities face a challenge of collecting the money that is owed to them. By maximising income, the theory follows that people with more money in their pocket will be more inclined and able to pay their debts. Usually, a Financial Support team will review cases and do income maximisation checks for service users/refer them on to DWP, but this is a time-consuming task.
An online financial assessment could signpost users to other types of benefits for which they might wish to consider applying.
The BetterCare Finance platform includes access to applications such as Attendance Allowance and Carer’s Allowance. The wider BetterOff suite providing substantial welfare support can be added at a later date if the council sees value in providing a tailored list of applications that the user should apply for based on an entitlement check.
There are areas within numerous local authorities which are rural and provide challenges for social workers for home visits, as well as connectivity. As well as reducing the number of home visits required across the authority, BetterCare Finance has been designed with an inbuilt ‘offline’ mode.
‘Offline’ mode ensures that users are still able to complete digital forms without needing a data signal, once they are able to connect at a later point, the form will automatically sync and ensures that no data is lost.
This applies to both council staff (i.e. where home visits are still required), but also to service users, who are able to complete the form in an environment in which they feel comfortable, wherever that may be.
Supporting Social Workers
In Looking Local’s experience to date across adult social care, social workers often feel like it is ‘not their job’ to discuss finances, but often there is a frustration that there isn’t better information available to them to leave with the customer, as they don’t feel confident talking about finances when it isn’t their area of expertise.
Currently all they can give users is an indication that they might have to pay for their care, and if they have capital over £23,250 then they will have to pay the full cost, but they will need to do a financial assessment to determine the exact level. By having access to a digital tool they could either guide the service user through a quick assessment during the appointment or point customers towards it with the key message that it would outline what they could expect to contribute towards their care package.
A self-serve online financial assessment tool would support social workers, provide guidance, help users establish their likely contribution as early in the process as possible and provide a personalised list of exactly what evidence they would need in support of their application.
With all this in mind, online financial assessments will allow staff members with more time to focus on those who are most in need, or are not able to self-serve digitally. At Kirklees Council, the 80% shift to self-serve has freed up Financial Care Assessment Officers to deal with vulnerable and complex cases. Subsequently, this shift has improved efficiency with the Financial Assessment team and completely eliminated their backlog.
You can find out more about online financial assessments via the Local Government Association here.
Click to read more about our online financial assessment tool BetterCare Finance. If you’d like to enquire about how BetterCare Finance can support your Local Authority, please request a free demo using the form below.