Oxfordshire bucks national trends after transforming adult social care – but urgently calls on government to provide sustainable long-term funding

Social care teams at Oxfordshire County Council are bucking national trends when it comes to waiting times for assessments, care and reviews as a result of implementing an innovative and radically different way of delivering care in recent times.

Statistics released today (4 August) by the Association for Directors of Adult Social Care (ADASS) show a deteriorating picture across the nation, with 37 per cent more people estimated to be waiting for assessments, care, direct payments, or adult social care reviews than in November 2021.

However, in Oxfordshire there has been a 40 per cent decrease in the total number of people on waiting lists, with people also having to wait less time overall to be seen – times have decreased by 43 per cent.

A fundamental transformation of how care is delivered, called ‘The Oxfordshire Way’, is the reason why the county council and its partner organisations are achieving far better results, with a linked improvement in outcomes for people in receipt of care.

The county council is keen to emphasise that such innovation can only remain sustainable if adult social care is properly funded nationally by central government.

Councillor Tim Bearder, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care, said: “I am delighted that we've been able to buck the national trend and almost halved Oxfordshire's waiting list but there is no room for complacency – we still have on average 1,000 people in the county needing a response from this council. That's not good enough. At the same time, we are being chronically underfunded. Unless local government is properly resourced, we will face the prospect of rewarding our incredible partners with further cuts. Government must recognise there is a crisis in adult social care and properly fund it.

“Over a period of time, our adult social care teams have worked incredibly hard to fundamentally transform how care is delivered in the county. Our service users have increasingly been able to live healthier lifestyles in their own communities supported by resilient support networks rather than having to rely on the very traditional ways of delivering care.

“Harnessing the power of our local communities has allowed our social care experts and partners to completely reimagine how they work together to deliver better outcomes for people who need support – whether that’s older people or people with learning, physical or other disabilities.

“Together with voluntary community sector partners, the county council has jointly created the Oxfordshire Way, which has brought those responsible for providing care together with a united, co-produced shared vision and approach to supporting the people of Oxfordshire to live well in their community, remaining fit and healthy for as long as possible.

“The bold approach has built community resilience and increased independence, with many different things coming together to allow that to happen. Better prevention and early intervention work has been deployed alongside the use of assistive technology.We have also been working as a wider team across different organisations and the voluntary and community sector operating as a cohesive team around individuals who need support.

“We have made the very best of the funding available and the outcomes are there for all to see. However, this can only remain sustainable for so long. In compiling and releasing national statistics on waiting times, ADASS is rightly seeking to highlight to government the need for sustainable levels of funding in the future. That includes properly covering councils for the costs of the changes that are due to take place in the world of adult social care in coming times, including how individuals contribute to the funding of their care.

“Demand is increasing all the time for very important adult social care services both locally and nationally. Increased need within the population – with ever more people needing support – is not recognised or acknowledged by government to its true and full extent in terms of the impact on council budgets. The majority of the money identified to support the reform of adult social care doesn’t address increased demand or complexity. It is aimed at supporting the care cap for self-funders.

“We are really proud that we have been able to transform the way we deliver adult social care in Oxfordshire in such a positive way. Now we, and our fellow councils, urgently need assurances from central government that it recognises and will address the well-known funding issues facing the sector. We want to build on our high-quality work in Oxfordshire – not to see it dissipate as a result of being let down by the government.”