Resource Allocation Systems

Community Care has an article about a case which refers to the RAS (resource allocation system) used to determine the levels of  personal budgets in social care.

Perhaps I should step back a little and explain briefly about the RAS. There is a lot of jargon in the world of personal budgets – little of it is genuinely helpful.

An assessment (usually a self-assessment but sometimes carried out with an advocate or social worker) will be placed through a spreadsheet chart analysis and depending on the data fed in, the RAS (as it is known) will spit out an ‘indicative budget’.

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Now this is where the court case comes in – R (Savva) v Kensington & Chelsea LBC

As is explained in the Community Care article, the case involved a 70 year old woman with a number of long-standing health conditions. She completed a self-assessment and under the ‘RAS’ system was granted an indicative budget of £82 per week. Being indicative meant it didn’t necessarily align with the ‘true costs’ of services so she was given a budget of £170.

Fast-forward to a hospital admission and a deterioration in her physical health which meant an increase in her needs. Self-assessment completed again – this time the RAS indicated higher needs and a higher indicative budget but the actual budget, the £170 allowed, remained the same.

The judge ruled that the RAS was not unlawful as it had been cross-checked by a human however the local authority should have shown greater transparency and explained the reasons better to the woman as to how the decisions were made.

For me, this is something I could see happening where I work. The RAS is known to be a very poor and ineffective tool.

Just last week, I was explaining to a colleague about it and he was becoming increasingly agitated as I explained again and again – the RAS just doesn’t work – don’t rely on it, just discuss what the needs are and his (very good) point being ‘if it doesn’t work, why do we us it at all?’.

Perhaps it is an indication of our need to find ‘systems’ and computers to compute things that actually can’t be computed. My understanding is that the reason for the RAS is to somehow try to equate and quantify different needs on an equitable basis. The RAS was determined by various people working in policy-making ivory towers who are absolutely convinced that there must be automated ways to do everything. Look, it will save time………. hahaha

Someone needs help with making breakfast – assign one figure for that.

Someone needs to have some daytime activities – assign one figure for that.

But reality suggests that the cost of an hour of ‘daytime activity’ will not equate to an hour of ‘meal preparation’.

Of course, this will make no sense to someone coming in from the outside – they see the figure and run with it – truthfully, it makes little sense to someone on the inside either.

So on the basis of the local government looking at ways to save money on administrative tasks – perhaps eliminating a practically useless attempt to automate clients’ needs according to financial figures would be one of them – as the work needs to be replicated manually in any case.

The only fortunate thing is that it takes a couple of minutes to run an assessment through a RAS – the unfortunate thing is that it is a completely soul-destroying couple of minutes where you know what you are doing has no purpose whatsoever as it all needs to be done again with more human input.

Computers don’t solve everything. Sometimes the systems merely serve to obfuscate.

Perhaps the real danger of the RAS is that it will be used to confuse users as to their needs and what they are entitled to.

2 thoughts on “Resource Allocation Systems

  1. My old authority being a leader in IBs had enormous problems with RAS. In fact the whole IBs project was delayed by over a year just because of the problems with it.

    The fundamental is that costs for even for the same thing have always varied depending on things like the state of the loca care lmarket, vol.sector activity etc.I used to raise this point, how can we account for these factors? to be told that it can be done by reviewing RAS periodically and having different rates for LD, PD, MH etc.

    I was very unconvinced however, as this seems to be a bit like Soviet demand management, even at it’s best it cannot keep up with the rate of change and complexities in the market.

    In an IB context this could mean some people are overpaid in terms of what they need to source services from the whilst others are underpaid.

    As you point out the folly of RAS is that it was, to my mind anyway, partly intended to reduce care management time, particularly for less complex needs by automating the system. This leaves us with a position that if we feel RAS needs care management input to correct the results it is a complete failure.

  2. I should write about an IB that I’m taking through at the moment – it makes something of a mockery of the system but I probably need to wait a few months to see what happens with it.
    The frustrating thing is that noone argues the model of IBs and the goal of self-directed support but the implementation is so full of holes..
    As long as we are reliant on a computer-based RAS system there HAS to be a human element as people are different. One people with LD needing 3 hours of day activities will be different to the next – let alone differences across service groups and of course, the different funding bands for exactly the same needs where one person is 64 and the other is 65. Logically there is little sense to it but the commissioning and management goal is to automate everything – to allay some of the practitioners cries about needing to do more work in the same amount of hours or the frustrations expressed about replicating the same pieces of work a million times. The problem is that the automation doesn’t work very well in social care.

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