Benchmarking

Basic benchmark costs for AA provision were provided by the There to Help (2015) report (see paper D), which conducted a survey with existing providers.

The research divided the annual funding for each scheme by its total annual call out figure, to arrive at a unit cost per call out.

Suitable data was obtained from 26 schemes from across England and Wales. The survey also considered whether or not volunteers were used and whether the scheme could cope with current demand.

In terms of unit cost (per call out), the report found that:

  • The average unit cost (per call out) when undertaken by a social worker was £375 (if only attending for an average of 2.5 hours)[1];
  • The average unit cost (per call out) for a dedicated, trained AA from an organised scheme was £80.79,
  • The average unit cost for volunteer schemes was £63.73, compared to £100 for non-volunteer schemes
  • The charity sector provided the lowest average unit cost at £59.61
  • The average unit cost of schemes who said they:
    • "sometimes" or "often" could not meet demand was £30.64
    • "always" or "generally" met demand was £71.65 
    • "had some spare capacity" was £96.58.

[1]Curtis (2013) Unit costs of Health and Social Care 2013. Kent: Personal Services Research Unit. This report calculated that the average cost of face-to-face social work was £128 per hour or £171 per hour in London. Based on an average callout time of 2.5 hours at £150 per hour the unit cost per call out is £375

on Monday December 11 by Chris Bath
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While the figures above provide a benchmark, they should not be relied upon to be accurate in the current local context. In particular, scheme developers should be aware that the data is based on:

  • data from the 2013/14 financial year;
  • existing levels of demand (where identification of need has increased, and the rate of AA call out has increased significantly, there may now be increased efficiencies of scale) ;
  • existing service design at the time, which may not have met legal requirements or current local expectations (for example some schemes in the sample may have effectively been attending only for the interview stage and therefore actual costs may be higher);
  • they are based almost exclusively on custody-only provision, so do not take account of any costs that might be associated with supporting voluntary interviews at other locations.

When estimating costs, scheme developers should consider the need for provision to meet current standards and expectations, especially those set out in the statutory Codes of Practice to PACE 1984.

The unit cost of an AA call out will clearly be higher for a scheme that:

  • is available on a 24 hour basis
  • attends for entire custody episodes
  • attends for voluntary interviews at various locations
  • delivers initial and ongoing training in line with the NAAN National Standards and National Training Pack.

However, developers should also consider the potential for innovation in service design to increase efficiency without reducing other critical aspects (such as effectiveness and independence).

Scheme developer may also wish to benchmark against other services in the same area, such as general, Independent Mental Health and Independent Mental Capacity Advocacy contracts. 

on Monday December 11 by Chris Bath
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Payments to sessional staff may be relevant in a number of scenarios. For example:-

  • You do not wish to use volunteers or employees as AAs;
  • Other AAs are to be used during specific hours only (e.g. employees during office hours or volunteers out of office hours). 

There are no nationally agreed pay rates for sessional AAs. Therefore, specific rates will be set at a local level based on supply of and demand for the relevant abilities.  

Information on the national living wage and real living wage can be found at the Living Wage Foundation. For comparison, agency social workers are paid an average of £30 per hour. 

Please note:

  • The examples below refer to direct payments made to AAs by the scheme. They do not include any of the operating costs of a scheme (e.g. management and coordination, travel and subsistence expenses, recruitment etc). The ultimate hourly cost to the developer / commissioner will therefore be significantly higher.
  • Legal advice should be sought wherever a hybrid (volunteers and paid staff) is used, including where volunteers are paid as sessional staff at certain times (e.g. out of hours). It is important to avoid situations in which volunteers replace paid staff or where employment relationships are unintentionally created. 

Example 1: North West England

Child Action North West is a charitable provider which operates contracted out schemes on behalf of various local authorities in the North West of England. As of January 2018 it pays sessional AAs:

  • £8.80 per hour; or
  • £9.60 per hour for evening/weekend; or
  • £11.00 per hour after 11.00 pm

Example 2: Southern England

The Appropriate Adult Service is a private sector provider which operates contracted out schemes on behalf of various local authorities in England. In Hampshire, as of January 2018, it pays sessional AAs: 

  • £8.50 per hour 8am - midnight 
  • £15.00 per hour midnight – 8am.

Example 3: Northern Ireland

Mindwise operates a single contracted out service for the whole of Northern Ireland. As of January 2015 it paid the following for part-time fixed contract employees (not sessional staff): 

  • Salary: £17,500 - £19,798 per annum pro rata (roughly £8.40-£9.50 an hour on a standard working week)
on Friday January 05 by Chris Bath
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