By Julian Pilling, CEO, Solutio UK
Social care has become a political hot topic as cutbacks to the sector continue. Spending on social care in the UK constitutes an incredible £32 billion per year, with £22 billion being spent on adult social care and £10 billion on children’s. Adult social care alone accounts for 38% of council’s spending.
Care is provided in the following way: councils assess the needs of an individual and approve a care plan, subsequently hiring an agency or individual contractor to carry this out.
In the case of domiciliary social care, which often involves a carer visiting a patient at home once a day to assist them, the patient is also entitled to request a direct payment and can arrange their own care or even choose a friend or relative to be paid to provide this.
With such a multiplicity of care providers contracted, councils are burdened with a huge amount of payment administration to deal with, much of which is still done the old-fashioned way using submitted paper time-sheets.
As many care receivers suffer from conditions such as dementia and are therefore unable to monitor whether the care being provided is adequate, both they and local authorities must rely largely on trust that carers are carrying out their contracts in full.
While most professional carers do operate to high standards, cases in recent years have shown shocking cases of fraud whereby carers take advantage of their patients’ vulnerability, stealing cash or forcing them to sign cheques and even name them as beneficiaries of their wills.
Less focus, however, has been placed on how carers defraud the authorities themselves, which is surprising given that social care fraud was one of the main four fraud types by volume detected in 2017/18 in the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy’s annual Fraud and Corruption Tracker survey.
It is well known that stretched local authorities have little capability to check whether social care contracts are being properly carried out and that the system is vulnerable to fraud. A recent criminal case saw a couple convicted of falsely claiming £170,000 in care payments from the Isle of Wight Council over several years, and one of the couple, himself a carer, of not carrying out the care contracts he was being paid for properly.
It is remarkable that billions in taxpayers’ money is spent on such a crucial service with so little preventative fraud measures in place. In this case payroll software for temporary staffing seems an obvious solution, not only in protecting against fraud but also in making the administration of multiple contracts much simpler.
Payroll software could allow the flagging of implausibly high numbers of hours – for example if a carer logs over 70 hours a week – as well as the cross-referencing of payments with other local authorities and agencies in order to detect fraudulent invoices and documents. GPS technology could also be used to track that carers are visiting the patients they are required to and staying with them for the correct amount of hours.
Technology and payroll software hold a huge potential for the prevention of fraud in social care, helping authorities save both time and money but most importantly ensuring that vulnerable individuals receive the care they so desperately need.