John Slade, Research Officer at RNIB, highlights the role of data analysis in driving improvements in adult social care for blind and partially sighted people.
RNIB recently launched the Facing Blindness Alone campaign. This highlights that sight loss leads to substantial social care needs yet the number of blind and partially sighted people in receipt of social care from councils has been declining in recent years.
One of the main sources for the Facing Blindness Alone campaign report is an analysis of social care data conducted by Natcen Social Research. This data is freely available on the National Adult Social Care Intelligence Service (NASCIS), and you can find a summary of this data for each council in England at our Research section.
One of the key findings of this analysis was whilst the provision of adult social care services has declined for all groups, the decline for blind and partially sighted people has been far greater. Between 2005/06 and 2012/13, there has been a 43 per cent decline in the number of blind and partially sighted people in England getting even the most basic types of council support - down from 55,875 people to 31,740, nearly 25,000 fewer people.
The proportionate decrease in blind and partially sighted people getting adult social care paid for or provided by councils is more than double the decrease for all service users.
Why is this reduction in services for blind and partially sighted people occurring? This is a difficult question to answer, and one that will need further research, analysis and debate at a local and national level. No doubt there will be some people who say that dataset is flawed and who will use the limitations of administrative data to shy away from the findings. But this is data from NASCIS, the same data that is used to plan, performance manage and improve social care services.
One thing is clear: data analysis should be an indispensable resource in improving social care for those most in need. One of the key developments must be a call for more and better data in the public domain which allows us to identify a cohort of blind and partially sighted people and see what services and support they are being provided by councils. NASCIS is an excellent resource, but most of the data can only be broken down to the broad "Physical disability" category and we cannot identify blind and partially sighted service users. If we do not measure something, we cannot improve it.
Any data is only useful if we use it to make a difference. Adult social care data shows that the number of blind and partially sighted people in receipt of these services has reduced by over two-fifths since 2005, which is more than double the reduction amongst all service users. The value of this information is how it is used by professionals to influence and drive for improvements in social care at a local and national level.
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