ASC lay summary

Social care aims to improve the quality of life of service users, but it can also have wider benefits for the economy and for society. For example, by supporting people of working age, either those receiving care or their unpaid carers, social care can help these to be more productive at work or to start a paid job. Social care may also reduce the amount of hospital services used; for example, hospital patients recovering from surgery can be moved home more quickly if supported by social care. Currently, there is very limited evidence about these wider effects of social care on the broader economy.

This project aims to address this lack of evidence by investigating how publicly funded social care services affect individuals’ net production, which is what individuals produce after taking account of what they consume, either as part of the paid economy (e.g. by being employed or by buying goods and services) or as unpaid service (e.g. by providing or receiving unpaid care). This evidence can support policy makers in their decisions about how to spend funds within the social care sector and across the public sector more broadly. Information on these wider effects provides a more complete picture of the ‘opportunity costs’ of investment decisions: the benefits that would be lost if funds were not invested in the public social care sector. For example, it can help decision makers to judge whether a new social care intervention provides value for money, which is the case if the wider benefits it offers exceed the benefits that would have been produced if the money were left invested in existing services.