What is Shared Lives like?

A Shared Lives household show what a good life can look like. Film: http://vimeo.com/108993357

Paul and Lorraine have moved into Linda’s family home and share their busy lives with Linda’s family. Film: http://inclusivefilms.org/our-films/a-real-home-a-real-life/paul-and-lorraine/

Inclusive Change

“We all agree that we need to do things very differently, but when try to visualise what ‘different’ looks like, we get stuck.” The challenge facing a group of local leaders will sound familiar to many. As an NHS Trust CEO put it: “We know what we do isn’t working.” So how can we construct a system which is genuinely different, rather than just a pared-back version of our familiar systems, when there’s no money to fund innovation?

The answer is that ‘we’ – public service professionals – cannot, at least not by ourselves. Fortunately, our services are not the only game in town. The group of local leaders felt less stuck when they started to consider the totality of resources in their area. This was not just about the established voluntary sector organisations, although these were important. It was also about seeking and building leadership in the community. We are unlikely to find new leadership if we approach our communities with a fixed idea of what we want them to contribute to. Recent Centre for Social Action research (People Helping People, Nesta, 2014) found few people were interested in volunteering to help public services, but a majority said they would help an older neighbour.

Some services have been able to increase dramatically their volunteer numbers. King’s College Hospital in London trebled its volunteers by creating roles which volunteers and staff really valued. But many attempts to recruit volunteers to contribute to goals set by managers fail. In contrast, Local Area Coordination helps people connect with each other in ways which may not make them part of a service, but which Inclusive Neighbourhoods has found has a dramatic impact upon isolated or vulnerable people, as well as increasing the quality of community life for everyone. Community Catalysts helps people build their own ideas for helping others into viable community enterprises, which often remain outside the sphere of local care commissioning.

At the more formal end of the spectrum, Shared Lives carers are part of a CQC-registered local scheme and offer personal care, but do so in the Shared Lives carer’s own home, including the individual in family life and placing equal value on building a circle of friends and a sense of belonging.

These organisations, along with In Control and Inclusion North, are now working together to support citizens and leaders to have new conversations which can identify what ‘different’ looks like, and to pursue together the simple goal of ‘good lives in good places’, rather than ‘service efficiencies’. Those conversations will be difficult at times, as participants are tempted to revert to their traditional roles of service leaders and service recipients. Trust will be strained as budgets continue to be cut. But in the courage to swap roles – leaders becoming recipients of citizens’ expertise and citizens sharing responsibility for change – lies the possibility of creating something truly ‘different’.

Inclusive Change launches today as a partnership between Community Catalysts, In Control, Inclusive Neighbourhoods, Inclusion North and Shared Lives Plus.

Customer or citizen?

My colleagues have got the guest-blogging bug. Here is Lyn Griffiths, our National Community Organiser for our Shared Lives carer members, thinking aloud about a thorny issue which we have been debating in the team. Thanks Lyn! Lyn writes:

My local authority, perhaps responding to a nudge from Government, often likes to refer to me as its customer. This same nudge has apparently been felt by Shared Lives schemes. Many of them are beginning to instruct Shared Lives carers to think of the individuals they share their lives with as their ‘Customers’. Sometimes this reflects a wider adult services policy in the area.

This change can be seen by some as empowering: ‘creating a culture of choice’. ‘Customers’ are able to make decisions about which services they use in much the same way, apparently, as the decisions they make when they go to the shops.

Does it matter? Well, in my opinion, it does. It matters because this is more than a change in terminology, it is a change in ideology. When schemes call the people who live with Shared Lives carers, ‘customers’, they define them in terms of what they can buy, not in terms of what they can bring and what they can contribute.

So, if the people who live in Shared Lives are the customers, does that make the Shared Lives scheme the shop and Shared Lives – or even the Shared Lives carers – the product? Ridiculous as Read more of this post

Relationships are the key

Time for another guest blog. Here is our Director of Support and Development, Anna McEwen, reflecting on Shared Lives week after exactly a year with us –  a year in which she’s had a huge impact upon our work! So Happy Anniversary to Anna, who writes:

It’s very timely that Shared Lives week 2014 includes my one year anniversary of working with Shared Lives Plus!  For me, the year has flown, there are still things I should know that I don’t and I certainly can’t use the “I’m new” excuse any more.  But we’ve seen some great work over the year, schemes developing and expanding, new schemes establishing and national providers beginning to develop Shared Lives services.  The best bits, in my opinion, are the stories that never cease to amaze me of Shared Lives carers welcoming people into their homes, sharing their homes and family life and helping people live good, and real, lives.

So this Shared Lives week as we focused on our theme of “Living good lives”, we’ve seen celebrations up and down the country to recognise the amazing work of Shared Lives carers and schemes.  There have been Shared Lives bake offs, ukulele concerts, tea parties and drinks receptions, ten pin bowling competitions and a trip to a vintage fairground.  Information events have been organised in shopping centres, libraries and town centres to raise awareness of Shared Lives. We had a fabulous parliamentary reception hosted by Liz Kendall where Shared Lives carers and people who live with them were welcomed along with MPs and given the recognition they deserve and where we also premiered our new film featuring some amazing and inspirational Shared Lives carers and the ladies they support.

All Shared Lives carers are amazing and inspirational I think. I had the privilege to work with a group of them when I worked in a Shared Lives scheme and they inspired my passion for Shared Lives.  Ordinary people who open their homes and welcome others in to live as part of their families – extraordinary.  I hope that one day, when I have more bedrooms than children in my house, I will be able to open my home too.  Lives change in Shared Lives, people have the opportunity to learn things others have said they could never learn and have experiences they could never have imagined.  Relationships are the key to Shared Lives, and as with any of us, if we feel secure in our relationships, we can do anything. Read more of this post

The NHS Integrated Personal Commissioning programme must learn from councils

This article on what the NHS could learn from social care, as it develops Personal Health Budgets and Integrated Personal Commissioning, first appeared in Local Government Chronicle, for which I write a regular column, last month: http://www.lgcplus.com/briefings/three-lessons-for-integrated-personal-commissioning/5074522.article

NHSE CEO, Simon Stevens’ first high profile announcement was for a programme for people power in the NHS based around personal health budgets, or ‘Integrated Personal Commissioning’ (IPC). What could the NHS learn from councils’ experience of implementing personal budgets – and personalisation more broadly – in social care? And how could this attempt to offer integrated, cross-sector personal budgets succeed where the original Individual Budget pilots failed to bridge the gaps between sectors some years ago?

Here are three hard-won lessons. First, reforming supply is as important as reforming demand. Personal budget control can help people make different demands, but it’s meaningless unless commissioners are deliberately reshaping supply in anticipation. Areas like Hertfordshire have created accessible local marketplaces for personal budget holders. Others have continued to develop familiar services, whilst people with personal budgets find they have the ‘freedom’ to choose their care, but nothing new to choose. In social care, this has meant that only a relatively limited number of Direct Payment holders have had both the resources and the genuine freedom to create genuinely new forms of care such as the new Personal Assistant workforce and hundreds of very diverse micro-enterprises. That has been life changing for some, whilst others have remained isolated individual consumers, with small or variable entitlements to resources, and a limited menu of ‘choices’.

Second, don’t expect the culture of collaboration and co-production to follow personal budget reforms. Instead, Read more of this post

Shared Lives Plus in Parliament and a “chance” encounter

Our first event in Parliament was organised by our communications colleagues Tim and Helen, with help from Lyn and the rest of the team. Tim (tim@sharedlivesplus.org.uk) has written this guest blog about the experience:

Straight after our first ever House of Commons reception one of our supportive MPs took Graham, Lorna, Clare, Joanne and Ayisha, the stars of the film we had just launched, for dinner in parliament.

Although we had fantastic support from frontbenchers across all major parties, notably our sponsor Shadow Care Minister Liz Kendall, Care Minister Norman Lamb, and guest speaker Nick Hurd MP, Shared Lives remains little known amongst MPs. This reception gave Shared Lives carers the opportunity to tell their representative directly about Shared Lives, and what it can, and is, doing for people who need support in their constituencies.

However for me the most interesting conversation with an MP happened not during the event itself but as we left the House of Commons dining area that evening.

On our way down the corridor, we bumped into a very well-known MP who Claire told us she had seen “on the telly”.

It would be unfair to name names without permission – but the figure in question was a household name, who commands respect across political boundaries for his work as a constituency MP over many decades. We took the opportunity to tell him about Shared Lives and that there was a Shared Lives scheme covering his constituency.

He wondered why there was a service like this in his area that he hadn’t heard of – genuinely surprised that he hadn’t come across something that sounded so positive, despite over 40 years as a local representative.

We said we’d send him some information, thanked him for listening, and went on our way.

As we walked out of parliament, I reflected on that briefest of conversations and what it meant.

Here we had someone who has been involved in supporting constituents with their needs and also making decisions about services in their community and the country for so many years – but they’d never heard of Shared Lives.

I’ve called it a chance encounter in the title of this blog; but on reflection chance isn’t the right way Read more of this post

Stop press: Shared Lives outperforms all other forms of care

News just in today, is that care inspectors CQC have published their annual State of Health Care and Adult Social Care in England. For the first time they have disaggregated Shared Lives from their ‘community care’ category and we’re glad they did: Shared Lives outperforms all other forms of regulated care, including other forms of community care. This is also consistent with the report’s finding that smaller settings are generally better than larger settings. Here is table 2.10. Shared Lives results are in yellow and include what I think is the report’s only 100% compliance statistic for adult social care:


CQC inspections

CQC inspections


It’s hard to know what good is when you have not had it

We held our first ever parliamentary event this week. Our host was Liz Kendall MP, the Shadow Care Minister, who made the Shared Lives carers and people using Shared Lives feel at home and spoke passionately about her support for Shared Lives carers in Leicester and nationally. Liz said, ‘I urge all MPs to investigate Shared Lives in your area and make a difference locally. This is about love, chance, family and choices. The things we all want.’ Care Minister Norman Lamb also spoke passionately about how Shared Lives can change lives and talked about how struck he was when he came into office by the ‘stark contrast’ between the Shared Lives he saw in action and institutional approaches, which had gone so terribly wrong at the Winterbourne View special hospital shortly before he took up his post. Nick Hurd MP, a previous Minister for Civil Society at the Cabinet Office, kicked off the event and introduced our new Shared Lives film, which was originally commissioned by the Cabinet Office and charity, Nesta, for their Centre for Social Action. You can watch it here: http://vimeo.com/108993357

16 MPs came to support us and meet their constituents who were involved in Shared Lives, which was great to see, but the highlight for everyone was hearing from Joanne, Ayeesha and Clare, three talented young women who live with Shared Lives carers Graham and Lorna in a household featured in the film. Clare kindly let us take pictures of the text of her speech which you can see below. Here is what she said:

Hello my name is Clare and I want to tell you about my life with Joanne + Ayeesha + Lorna + Graham + J.J. He’s our dog. It’s a good life.

My life did not used to be a good life.

My life was a disaster before I moved in.

I’m not going to tell you why, that is personal.

It got better when I moved in to Shared Lives.

It got better when I met Lorna and Graham. I was a bit shy at first. It was hard sometimes because I got a bit homesick.

I did not know what Shared Lives was. Not everyone does.

It’s hard to know what good is when you have not had it.

More people need to know about Shared Lives.

They need to know it is not about being stuck in a flat on your own.

It is not about being lonely.

It is about family.

It is about having choices.

It is just lovely.

It is a good life.

My message to you is that everyone should be able to have a good life.

Everyone should have the choice.

Lots of people like me are just told about living in flats.

They be told about Shared Lives.

They should be able to see it.

They should be able to try it.

They should be able to live it.

Everyone should have the chance to have a good life.

page 1 page 2


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,828 other followers