It makes sense that by reducing the demand for services, local authorities can reduce the cost of those services.
At Calderdale Council we view demand management as much more than a response to budget cuts, we see it as a way of transforming services.
We are taking a whole Council approach, embedding demand management into our entire way or working.
Demographic pressures such as rising numbers of older and vulnerable people were already prompting the need to think differently about public services before austerity measures kicked in.
Severe budget restrictions across local government have made the need for creative thinking all the more urgent.
Demand management offers a more innovative approach, which means changing behaviour or early intervention to remove some of the need for services.
The first step is understanding what drives demand, which entails examining people’s expectations and choices, our systems and processes and the individual behaviour of our staff and the residents of Calderdale.
The next step is changing behaviour through a combination of preventative work, early intervention to limit or avoid long-term dependency and integrating disparate services around the people that need them and the places they need to be.
This can then be followed by redesigning, restricting and re-sourcing services where appropriate.
We are a year into our demand management journey at Calderdale.
We looked at home to school transport initially and found we had created a dependency on specialist buses among people who may be able to travel in other ways.
By putting in place travel training and intensive support with children, vulnerable adults and their families we have been able to enhance their confidence and independence.
We identified that behaviour change was more likely to be influenced by doctors and teachers and engaging these professionals proved valuable.
Savings can be realised as a result of this work, but service users and their families report that, rather than taking something away from them, simply making these changes was a positive experience.
We have learned that some aspects of demand management are down to simple things. For example, we examined how we can manage demand by improving communications with residents. We found that making the content of letters clearer means a reduction in the number of subsequent contacts with the Council.
We are now rolling out demand management across the Council in conjunction with the current round of budget planning. Everything that has potential for demand management is being tested.
Adult social care will be one of the largest areas we will look at. We will consider ways in which personal budgets can be used in conjunction with demand management as a way to enhance self-reliance among service users.
We are clear that this is not just a way of dressing up budget cuts and we need to communicate carefully with our residents to demonstrate this. Decisions will be taken with the support and involvement of service users and their insights will be used in order to find innovative solutions where possible.
See Calderdale’s Demand Management for more details