Posted on: 22 February 2023

Case Study - ARC England

Clive Parry, England Director, Association for Real Change

The Brief

After hearing anecdotal evidence that fee rates for learning disability and autism care were not covering the cost of care or keeping pace with wage increases, ARC wanted to investigate this at a local authority level. 

For this investigation, we conducted a freedom of information request on ARC’s behalf. We initially contacted 155 English upper tier local authorities, then followed up with the 22 Welsh authorities after the initial positive responses to the English request.

Using the data from the freedom of information request, we first visualised the local authority data. To maximise the impact of the data amongst policymakers and MPs, we created a constituency visualisation, using our own look-up to convert the data.

Why did you decide to conduct an FOI for this campaign?

We did this because we had been hearing from our members that the fee rates they are being paid do not cover the cost of the care and support they provide. We were also hearing that inflationary fee rate uplifts were not keeping pace with the additional costs providers were incurring whenever the national minimum/living wage was increased.

How did you find the FOI process?

Initially, this seemed daunting because there is no quick and simple way to manage this. Even if we were clear about the questions we wanted to ask, the myriad different ways that Authorities manage incoming FOI requests meant that this was going to be quite a task for us and we felt we did not really have enough experience of FOI requests.

“The responsiveness and helpfulness of Polimapper colleagues is striking”

Why did you choose Polimapper for this campaign?

From the outset, Polimapper colleagues made the tasks that seemed difficult to us easy. The interactive map was always going to be the best way for us to present what would otherwise be very complex data that would be hard to understand without the visualisation.

Polimapper colleagues not only took over the management of the FOI questions, including refining these and then following up with Authorities that had not understood them but they also responded with enthusiasm and energy as our ask of Polimapper evolved. This happened because as we worked with Polimapper, we came to understand more and more of what we wanted to do and this meant that we sent lots of questions and requests to Polimapper colleagues.

They responded quickly and helpfully everytime, even when we changed our minds about what we wanted. The responsiveness and helpfulness of Polimapper colleagues is striking and has made this FOI activity work better for us.

How have stakeholders responded to being shown this data?

Every response we have received has been positive and we have been offered feedback about how important the piece of work is for the sector. I would say that the way that we have worked with Polimapper has resulted in strengthened relationships with our members and with the Research Unit Steering Group members who funded the work.

How has Polimapper changed the way you plan for meetings/events with stakeholders?

Pretty much every meeting we are in now includes some reference to the interactive maps and the results of the FOI. The work has stimulated conversations and interactions with stakeholders, such as Local Authorities, that we had not previously interacted with and as above, it has strengthened our relationships with our members and added real value for them as members of ARC.

What impact have the maps had on your work?

We have received a great deal of positive feedback from not only the providers that will benefit from a move to more sustainable fee rates but from other stakeholders including Commissioners.

The maps have shone a light on a serious and widespread funding gap in the learning disability and autism services sector and they have enabled us to increase awareness of the unsustainability of fee rates.

It is for these reasons that we have decided to refresh and publish the maps on an annual basis

The Result

To find out more about their research, and to view the fee rate data, click here