The Resource Allocation System (RAS) in adult social care in England is the means by which local authorities determine the size of the ‘personal budget’ pot in social care and the money that will be paid (or services in lieu) to the recipient.
The ethos of the personal budget, whether delivered by a direct payment or a ‘managed’ budget or an Individual Service Fund is clarity. The user/recipient of the service knows how much ‘money’ is in the pot to spend – even if they aren’t making those spending choices directly.
So why is there a problem with the RAS? Lucy at The Small Places explains in her excellent and highly recommended post here. She has undertaken a piece of research asking various local authorities for details about their Resource Allocation Systems. What this means in effect is asking how the algorithms are calculated that assigned particular values (money) to ‘needing help with preparing meals’ or ‘having a family member to help’. Lucy explains that two reasons she was given by different local authorities for not disclosing were that revealing the formula might ‘distort’ future requests (i.e. people could fiddle the system if they knew which questions were weighted in particular ways) or that the RAS is a commercially sensitive document.
Quite rightly these arguments are picked apart in the blog post referenced so I won’t go over that again.
I did want to consider a question that was put to me last night (via Twitter) namely ‘What’s the solution?’.
I’m sure I’d be in a position in a very different grade to the one I’m in now if I had a bullet proof solution but it raises some thoughts in me that needed longer than 140 characters.
We need to look at the reason the RAS existed in the first place. It was supposed to be an attempt to translate an assessment into a ‘cost’. It was supposed to be importing clarity into the system of social care for adults which can be wholly complicated – in the same way that the Fair Access to Care Services Criteria were intended to introduce a clarity around entitlement to receipt of care.
Waving a cloud of obfuscation over the ‘mystery’ of the RAS almost seems to defeat the purpose and ethos behind their introduction in the first place.
If local authorities are worried about people ‘gaming’ the system, surely investing in professional and high quality assessments will be able to manage this risk. If private companies are making a killing on developing resource allocation systems because the process is too unwieldy for local authorities to manage individually, surely that calls into question the process and the way it exists in the first place.
Being the type of person who finds clarity and honesty so much easier than attempts to hide behind figures, I don’t see why local authorities should worry about revealing the basis of the RAS decisions.
You’re going to lop a load of the budget off if you have an informal carer? Be honest about it. It’s not like no one knows it’s not happening. You give more money to someone who is 45 than someone who is 85 who has exactly the same needs? We know you’re doing it, be honest so we can challenge under Equality legislation. You give more ‘value’ to leisure time of a 20 year old than a 90 year old? Be honest.
So maybe nothing at all would be better than the RAS but the solution is clarity and honesty. We know that calls are made on the basis of resources – why not treat the recipients of these services and their families/advocates like adults and let them know the way judgements are made?
The problem is that the ethos of ‘personalisation’ has been caught up in the local authority predilection for keeping information ‘for professionals’. In order to truly embrace the ethos we have to share all the information and reasoning with users and treat people who need these services provided on a par with the so-called ‘experts’.
What would be better than the Resource Allocation System? An honest and open Resource Allocation System.