Made Tech Blog

Breaking barriers: navigating adult social care in the digital age

My friend Katie, is a 34-year-old mother of one lives on the outskirts of King’s Lynn, Norfolk. She has limited mobility due to her illness and has relied on her social care allowance to pay for modifications to her home and transport to a weekly social club. 

Yet, every six months she must print off reams of documentation and financial statements and present these in person at the local council offices; a trip that leaves her extremely exhausted and frustrated as other government services allow her to provide statements electronically.

Katie is not alone. 

Katie is one of the thousands of people affected by outdated systems and processes for adult social care applications and the regular financial audits that assess how she’s spending her allowance.

A service that is already difficult to access, made more difficult by these processes.

So, what’s stopping councils from using systems that better support people like Katie?

Why are these processes stuck in the past?

Having spoken to several council employees about the process of validating and reviewing documentation in person and the need for paper copies, it would seem that this method has stemmed from concerns about authentication and fraud.

A long-standing wariness about digital systems’ abilities to recognise fraud seems to have cast a shadow over reviewing the options available when it comes to document request and validation software in the modern age. The abilities of systems to review, process and verify documentation based on learned data (such as identifying tampered documents, reviewing signatures and extrapolating data) and to cross-check information with pre-existing databases (such as name, address, previous address history etc) has moved on in leaps and bound in the past decade. In the past year, we’ve seen a huge shakeup to the capabilities of AI – and yet, government systems are relying on functionality that’s, in some cases, decades out of date.

Because of the improvements in request and verification software, these paper-based, in-person verification processes pose a greater security and confidentiality risk; compared to computers and AI, the human eye can more easily be fooled and data protection can be breached due to incorrect storage of paper records.

According to the SSRG International Journal of Computer Science and Engineering, there is clear evidence that AI driven systems are far more efficient at identifying people and fraudulent documents to a greater degree of accuracy than compared to our human abilities. 

Digital databases also offer greater security because private details are visible only to those who need to see them and records can be stored, deleted and redacted as required by data protection policies.

Luckily, in recent years, we’ve seen other government services like the HM Passport Office offering a digital service that’s capable of verifying photos and documents online without human intervention – and yet, we’ve not seen this kind of technology being rolled out across other services.

Why haven’t councils been able to modernise?

I feel sorry for councils who are having to grapple with outdated technological infrastructures from legacy systems and budget constraints. As well as being tied into lengthy contracts with their software suppliers, they often do not have the budget to develop their own secure online submission portals or the resources to rescope and migrate away from what they already have.  

The software package that was (probably) purchased 10+ years ago may well have worked then, but without innovation, expansion or improvement, it’s now failing to keep up with the changing demands of service users and their increasing dependence on instant access, digital portals. 

This is because these systems are often scoped once and deployed. So long as they were good enough at the time of launch, revisiting the platform to see if improvements can be made to the service and functionality is often a low priority.

There is a degree of due diligence on the part of councils though. I’ve noticed that people will question if the system is still fit for purpose if/when renewal of that system is on the horizon. But complicated pricing structure and the hassle of exploring new options often leads people to stick with what they have. I don’t blame them. Having been in their position before, sometimes it feels like the easiest option is to just stick with what we have instead of going into a period of consultation, scoping and procurement. 

A lack of innovation and incorporation of new technologies, though well-intentioned, form barriers for residents and continue to drain social workers’ time – what’s needed is the addition of software and systems that allow social workers and residents to more efficiently supply and assess documentation, and here’s why…

The impact on our community

The issue of accessibility during the application and audit phase undoubtedly has the biggest impact on those who are dependent on the allowance for their independence, freedom and social lives. For those less able-bodied, in-person processes are a difficult hurdle to overcome. 

Two-thirds of adult social care users are over 65 – with all of those dependent on some sort of support for:

  • Accommodation
  • Physical and mental health
  • Transport

You could argue that in these cases, the system fails to accommodate the very people it’s supposed to serve.

We cannot assume that everyone has access to:

  • Transport
  • A printer or scanner
  • A person of good standing in the community
  • Identification

Anyone in this position is caught in a catch-22. Needing adult social care support but unable to apply or navigate the system due to inaccessibility to technology, transport and community – the very services they require the funding for.

Take James, for example, he says, “Trying to get help is a minefield, it was like I’m going round in circles. There’s either a lack of services, or when I can find someone who can help the waiting list is already so long. I know other people who need care who have difficulty finding who to approach or where to go for assistance. The information isn’t easily available. It’s not advertised enough and some of the websites aren’t up to date.”

A call for inclusive innovation

There’s no doubt in my mind that reforms to these processes are required. Ideally, there should be options for assessment and verification to be done in person or online to accommodate the diverse needs of those reliant on adult social care payments.

This is why we created our Evidence software. 

We believe that by allowing social care workers to automate the processes required to facilitate online financial assessments and direct payments, they will have more time to support residents who need to provide this same information in person. 

With the process of requesting and validating ID, documentation and other eligibility evidence through a digital portal, social care workers’ time can be optimised so they can offer both options to their residents.  

We’ve also done away with complicated pricing structures, add-ons and the like. The kind of thing that often stops social care managers from considering a new product or replacement system.

By providing a choice, councils would be seen to be more inclusive and accessible, putting the choice into the hands of those who deserve to have these options open to them; rather than having the choice made for them. 

If you’d like to learn more about Evidence and its use cases across social care, financial assessments, housing and more, fill out the form below.


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About the Author

Kelly Newcomb

R&D Marketing Manager