Will the RAS ever be fit for purpose?

One of the aims of Personalisation within the social care field was to make decision making more transparent and to allow users and carers to understand the process better. It was hoped that by each local authority adopting a resource allocation system (RAS), users would be able to find out what their ‘indicative budget’ was likely to be. By being upfront about how much ‘indicative budget’ a user was likely to receive for their social care needs, it would help the user with support to draw up a support plan that fitted the budget.

All well and good you may think, however trying to design a resource allocation system that is ‘fit for purpose’ seems to have foiled most local authorities. While most local authorities may claim to be using a resource allocation system, they are also using a system of ‘moderation’ to change the indicative budget after going through the RAS to ensure its accuracy.

This process of moderation is done by either the care manager / social worker or by a panel. Which then begs the question about what are we actually achieving in using a RAS.

I am not claiming that coming up with an indicative budget is easy but if we are going to treat people as individuals which their own personal hopes, fears, desires, and needs, it feels counter intuitive that feeding a few dozen scores into a computer system is ever going to come out with a realistic answer that works for everyone.

I was prompted to write this article after reading The Small Places blog which discussed the state of RAS across the country. I was particularly disturbed that 2 local authorities refused to give details of their RAS but for 2 different reasons.

The first local authority, Croydon, was worried that the information could be used by people to manipulate the system. But surely we want a transparent system that everyone can understand and buy into. If users can’t work out how the RAS has come up with the indicative budget, the social care system will lack the much needed credibility it requires.

The second local authority, Hackney, used a private organisation to develop the RAS and therefore the information was seen as commercially sensitive. As a service user myself, I find this reason even more disturbing. If the RAS has been developed with taxpayers’ money, we have a right to understand how it works. Why should the aim of transparency be thwarted by the private interests of a commercial company?

Overall, whilst I agree with the concept of Personalisation, I am worried that a lot of time, effort and money has been spent on developing RAS systems across the country which aren’t really improving things for service users and more importantly, not making the system any easier to understand.

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