The number of children looked after by local authorities in the UK has been rising steadily for the past 25 years. Government data shows 75,420 children were looked after by local authorities in 2018, up 4% year-on-year. In 1994, the figure was below 50,000.
The most common reason for children being looked after was ‘abuse or neglect’, with children aged between 10 and 15 accounting for 39% of those in care. Looked after children are five times more likely to offend than other children, with around 4% identified as having a substance misuse problem.
One of the challenges facing the social care system is staffing. For children and young people’s mental health services, for example, a government report has warned low staffing levels are the most common reason for delays in children and young people receiving care.
In adult social care, the highest vacancy rates are for regulated professions that include registered nurses, allied health professionals and social workers.
Amid continued funding uncertainty, health and social care services will need to pool resources to use technology to deliver common goals and improve the quality of care.
A government report has found some adult social care services are using innovative ways to utilise technology to improve the quality of care they can provide.
One care home, for example, is using assistive technology such as eye gaze or ‘head mouse’ software that enables young people with a physical disability to express their views, control their living environment and maximise their independence.
In the NHS, several measures have been introduced – digital monitoring devices for patients’ clinical observations have been cited as saving thousands of nursing hours, e-prescribing has led to reduced waits for pharmacy services, and electronic immediate discharge summaries have been introduced to help improve patient safety.
Technology is expected to play a wider role in social care in the future with the increased use of robotics, ranging from automated vacuum cleaners to the provision of social and cognitive assistance to care receivers, as well as physical assistance to both caregivers and care receivers.
The UK government will have invested £300m in researching the benefits of robotic technologies by 2020, according to the National Audit Office, with a further €700 million invested by the European Commission.
The use of robotic technologies presents ethical, social and regulatory challenges, and will present new risks to local authorities, such as increased cyber and privacy risks. New insurance products will be required to help manage the risks these technological developments will present,
Emerging technologies are not the only changes taking place to the risk landscape. With a wave of historical abuse allegations having emerged in recent years, local authorities now have a heightened awareness of the need to prioritise safety of the most vulnerable, as well as facing a potential liability risk from historical claims.
And climate change also poses a risk to the health and social care sector, with the potential need for infrastructure adaptation to ensure vulnerable people are not exposed to overheating, as well as existing risks being multiplied at times of extreme weather.
Against this challenging backdrop, local authorities must prioritise better risk assessment and ensure they have the most appropriate insurance coverage in place to mitigate against these emerging risks.
Published date: 21st May 2019
This article and related document links do not purport to be comprehensive or to give legal advice. While every effort has been made to ensure accuracy, Risk Management Partners cannot be held liable for any errors, omissions or inaccuracies contained within the article and related document links.
Readers should not act upon (or refrain from acting upon) information in this article and related document links without first taking further specialist or professional advice.
Risk Management Partners Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered office: The Walbrook Building, 25 Walbrook, London EC4N 8AW. Registered in England and Wales. Company no. 2989025
Risk Management Partners Limited is the data controller of any personal information you provide to us or personal information that has been provided to us by a third party. We collect and process information about you in order to arrange insurance policies and to process claims. Your information is also used for business purposes such as fraud prevention and detection and financial management. This may involve sharing your information with third parties such as insurers, reinsurers, other brokers, claims handlers, loss adjusters, credit reference agencies, service providers, professional advisors, our regulators, police and government agencies or fraud prevention agencies.
We may record telephone calls to help us monitor and improve the service we provide. For further information on how your information is used and your rights in relation to your information please see our privacy notice at https://rmpartners.co.uk/privacy-policy. If you are providing personal data of another individual to us, you must tell them you are providing their information to us and show them a copy of this notice.