Social Care Procurement – Younifi Platform Aims to Support Personal Budgets

We wrote here about the challenges in social care procurement facing local authorities who are major buyers of these services, as well as care recipients and suppliers. Local authorities spend something close to £20 billion a year on adult social care, whilst individuals paying for care themselves account for around the same again. The councils’ money represented around 67 million financial transactions – another huge cost on top of the directly spend cash.

We mentioned then Younifi, a new online platform from Comensura, a firm many of you will know as a managed service provider in the contingent labour space, and a sponsor of Spend Matters we should say.

But we would be featuring Younifi even if we had never heard of Comensura, because it is genuinely innovative and interesting in the way it addresses this difficult spend area. It is a tool that is aimed at helping all the key players in the “supply chain” – that is, individual care recipients, local authority (council) managers and providers of services.

It is designed principally for use where the individual recipient has a personal care budget.  This is a growing trend and whilst it has benefits of flexibility for the care recipient, it does bring challenges for the council that needs to keep track of expenditure, as well as issues of “quality control” and appropriateness in term so how people choose to spend their budget.

In general, the evidence so far is that people like the freedom and control they get from personal budgets – but they hate the hassle around the financial and administrative process that it burdens them with in many cases. Similarly, social services managers in authorities have those challenges with administering individual budgets, and have to combine a flexible approach with proper governance over public money.

So Younifi provides those managers with a platform to manage and oversee the personal budgets, with elements of what we might call “purchase to pay” capability in terms of recording expenditure and providing management information for councils. But the platform also includes marketplace and catalogue features which will help the individual care recipient, who can use Younifi to find services (or goods) providers who are registered.

If the individual requires someone to provide some personal care, for instance, they can do that via the platform. The provider can then load time-sheets into Younifi, and those can then be considered and authorised by the council’s social care managers via the platform and paid.  That element is via the “payment hub” - a bespoke infrastructure that takes a daily feed of all invoices, plus other financial transactions, to calculate and consolidate how much is owed by the individual and council. It consolidates payments to providers on a daily basis too.

Managers can view a care recipient’s profile to proactively intervene where appropriate to improve support, and the overall level of data should allow authorities to manage their whole spend area better, which is key in these difficult times of “austerity”.

The platform also includes communication and collaboration tools both to help participation of friends, family, agencies or professionals in the co-ordination of individuals’ care, and for collaboration between councils and service providers.

We don’t claim to be experts in this area, but it looks like a tool that could be very useful and perhaps even transformational for the sector. We’d like to see it in action and talk to users before we get too excited of course. But anything that helps this critically important sector work better – preferably before we at Spend Matters need to call on those services – is very positive!

In the meantime, back to Younifi. Data about spend in all local authorities has been loaded into the platform, so there is a “build your own business case” feature available for any social care managers who want to go into it and see what the benefits for them might be.

Alternatively, do contact Jamie Eaton at Comensura / Younifi if you want more detail, and there is also a very good and thorough report on personal budgets available (free) here if you are interested in the topic more generally. It is titled “Let’s Get Personal”, and is produced by ADASS, the association of directors of adult social services, in conjunction with Younifi.

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