Latest news

3 new jobs at Shared Lives Plus: leading our membership support UK-wide; leading on policy; bringing our growing Strategic Advice offer to the NHS and integrated care systems. Click here.

A new health and care system: escaping the invisible asylum is published by Policy Press and launched at Nesta in London with Simon Stevens (video), Chief Executive of NHS England, who said, “This is a profound and timely call for a different relationship between people and the services and institutions of the welfare state. It’s a radical and necessary call to arms for a more human, personal and connected society” Read the introduction here and get a 30% discount code. Our latest short films:

Accelerating Ideas – working across the home nations

In this second blog of two about our , Alex Fox (CEO) and Anna McEwen (Executive Director of Support and Development) set out some of the lessons from Shared Lives Plus’ Accelerating Ideas UK development project, supported by Nesta and funded by the National Lottery Community Fund to develop Shared Lives and Homeshare across all four home nations.

There has been Shared Lives in all four home nations for many years, but our capacity to support the sector outside of England was limited, and a large majority of the 14,000 people using Shared Lives live in England. Welsh Government support has enabled us to address that gap in Wales for some years now, and Wales has full coverage and has started to grow in recent years. The Accelerating Ideas programme enabled us to bring our work to Scotland and Northern Ireland for the first time.

Over the past three years, Shared Lives in Scotland has grown healthily, rising to around 17%. Much has hinged on one or two ambitious and successful areas showing the potential. Moray’s Integrated Joint Board recently approved the transfer of 4- 8% of the learning disability budget into Shared Lives, because they had seen the success of the model for themselves as a day support. Now Edinburgh, Fife, and Falkirk are growing. East Lothian has plans to reach more older and young people in transition from care. Three new schemes are being established, two focused initially on people with learning disabilities and Dundee set up to support older people.

Conversely, where an area has no existing Shared Lives scheme, and leaders have no direct experience of it, winning hearts and minds takes significant work and success often requires a number of leaders to align at the same moment: in one area we spent years working with people supporting carers, disability champions, the Health board and potential providers of the new service to co-design it. Re-structuring left only two of five relevant senior leaders in post, so that process had to start again and is only gaining momentum again a year later.

In Northern Ireland, the sector had remained very small for years, with awareness low, little senior leadership attention, recruitment difficult and mixed views on development and diversification to reach new groups. Ironically, it was following the collapse of the Northern Ireland assembly, which put many areas of public service reform on hold along with the cross-party support for Shared Lives which we had worked so hard on, that a Shared Lives expansion project led by the Health & Social Care Board was established in July 2018 with £270,000 of non-recurrent funding, with funding made available to all five NI Health & Social Care Trusts for Shared Lives posts. The challenge now is to convert that investment into capacity, recruitment and impact on people’s lives.

A clear lesson from our experiences of working in all four nations is that each nation has to own its own development programme, based around senior staff who are embedded into the national policymaking and practice community. When resources are very limited, we have in the past prioritised direct support for local organisations. That has welcome impact on the ground, but that member-facing work doesn’t necessarily raise the sector’s profile and political support, or lead to longer-term investment. The approach of investing in strategic posts who can build profile, support and evidence feels like the only route towards lasting growth, as the new resources we have attracted in Northern Ireland and Scotland suggests. After years of almost all the growth being concentrated in England, we are now seeing growth which is genuinely UK-wide, with each nation able to learn from the others, as you can see from this story from Moray Shared Lives, which has pioneered dementia support.

Hero, villain, angel, machine

The other week I broke a bicep tendon, which I wouldn’t recommend. I posted this twitter thread with some reflections about using the NHS.

I had quite a few responses, so I’m reposting it as a blog here:

As an NHS Assembly member I thought I should road-test the NHS. So last weekend I snapped my bicep tendon while rock climbing training. Ouch. Here are some reflections.

Firstly, this was a self-inflicted sports injury, but can only be fixed by surgery. That the risks we choose to take (exercise, lack of it, etc) are covered, free-at-point-of-use seems miraculous at times like this.

A&E on a Sunday at Leeds LGI hospital. A wait of course, but in under 4 hours, I was assessed, x-rayed, seen by a specialist, booked me in for next week, by busy, effective, kind people.

I was phoned on the Sun and Mon to book and confirm a Tuesday appointment. The surgeon and his team there were friendly & clear. Options & risks explained. Surgery booked for Sun.

One of the great things about our NHS is the sense of equality. The surgical ward’s patients were a cross-section of Leeds. An unconscious homeless man brought in by 2 police. An older lady keen to chat. A young man having to wait ‘too long’ left in a huff (or maybe in fear?)

An unconscious homeless man was brought in by two police officers. An older lady fretted about getting home. A young man left in a huff when told how long his surgery would be.

Being trolley-ed half-dressed to theatre, scalpels & general anaesthetic feels like being wheeled away from the land of the living. Porters have a degree in cheerfulness which helps a lot.

I met the surgeon just before being anaesthetised. Ideally, I’d have had some significant last minute risk info earlier. He did what seems to be a great job of the op.

Waking up. I burble at the endlessly patient nurse & spill my water. Back to the ward. More kindness + a chemically-enhanced sense of wellbeing. I love the NHS!

This album on my phone seems to have lasted a month.

All morning on the ward TV politicians shouted about Brexit, immigration & NHS crisis. While the multi-cultural, multi-national team were busy, effective, cheerful & kind to us all.

I hear a passionate discussion about an issue to do with unnecessary waiting, and what the team planned to do to fix it. A strong sense of us patients as people with lives outside of this ward.

I think about someone I know in a mental health crisis & my experience of those services: overwhelmed with demand. Long-term care lost behind waiting lists & ‘life-or-death’ criteria.

With my ‘self-inflicted’ injury fixed, I thought about my colleague Meg who talks about being treated for self-harm injuries with less compassion: results of a mental illness seen as ‘self-inflicted’

Is the balance right between the impressive resources here & those available to people with life-long conditions? This team is under pressure, but imagine social care resourced like this…

Later I read this harrowing BBC report into Mark Stuart’s death: autistic & fatally lost in a hospital’s care system. His parents said, “It was like he didn’t matter”.

The NHS is a miracle which has not yet reached all those who need long-term care. It is easy to simplify the NHS to hero, villain, angel, or machine, based on our latest experience.

The NHS needs us not to worship it, or despair at its faults, but to see it clearly, value it and question it. The staff here were at their best when they listened, explained, empathised.

In some places, that culture of kindness and professionalism will break if we take the NHS for granted. We need to invest in it. & we need to listen to those who don’t yet experience it.

The bill for all this was of course, nothing: just paying my taxes. I dread to think how much my care has cost the NHS, or how much private paying health care systems would charge.

Finally, huge thanks to everyone at the Leeds General Infirmary – you are doing an amazing job in tough circumstances and I couldn’t be more grateful.

Accelerating Ideas – shaping local systems

In two blogs, I and my colleague Anna McEwen will reflect on what we achieved, struggled with, and learned around two of the main objectives of our recently completed Accelerating Ideas UK development project, supported by Nesta and funded by the National Lottery Community Fund.

  • establishing a new strategic advice arm and supporting commissioners to start and expand Shared Lives and Homeshare services
  • establishing our work in all four UK nations, building on our success and government support in England and Wales

We wanted to develop a strategic advice business for two main reasons: to help local leaders to work with their  provider organisations to improve and grow Shared Lives, Homeshare and other personalised models, and to bring us a sustainable source of income so that we rely less on grant funding.

This work started to in earnest in 2017-18 and accelerated rapidly: nearly 70 contracts to date, including work with Australia’s changing disability support service and in British Columbia. A typical example is the Shared Lives service review for Bridgend Council which included an evaluation and analysis of Shared Lives in Bridgend, and a comprehensive business case and options appraisal looking at externalised and in-house delivery, working with other localities, and growing the scheme. A key aspect of our work is the work of the team of people with lived experience and their Shared Lives carers, who carry out peer-to-peer research, alongside colleagues who look at practice, use of resources and compliance, to produce a rounded picture of what a local service does, its outcomes, but also how it feels to the people who actually use and deliver it.

One of our largest projects has been with Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership (GMHSCP) to develop and implement an ambitious five year plan for an additional 600 people using Shared Lives, across Greater Manchester. Jo Chilton, Programme Director, Adult Social Care Transformation Programme said, “Greater Manchester has high ambitions for scaling up Shared Lives but we want to ensure that people currently involved in Shared Lives and those who may wish to be supported in Shared Lives in future, help assess how ready we are to do more, and what would need to happen to make our ambition a reality. Our partnership with Shared Lives Plus is vital to getting this right from the start.” This included a detailed evaluation of five of the ten Shared Lives schemes using a combination of scheme health checks and data analysis. The city region is investing and working towards the UK’s most ambitious goal to date, of  15% of people who have a learning disability and use social care to be using Shared Lives.

Our main challenge has not been winning work, it has been expanding our delivery capacity to keep pace with demand. We use a small number of associates for specialist tasks, but a lot of the delivery has been in-house, and the expansion of our capacity off the back of demand for support, rather than through grant-funded expansion, is one of a number of culture changes for our team: we have needed to be willing to take some different kinds of risk to expand. We tailor our work to the local places we are working in, rather than around a bid submitted to a grant maker.  In changing our model, we were focused on remaining true to our values and serving our members, who are 6,000 Shared Lives carers and 170 local organisations. The key to this has been to develop an offer which is shaped by our values and coproduction approach, and marketing this and our unique place as the only national Shared Lives and Homeshare organisation, not as extra cost or time, but as the best reason to work with us: after all, what would be the purpose in expanding the most personalised support approaches, if you didn’t pursue that expansion in a personalised way?

Some of the impacts of this are more expected than others. We have long understood the need to get local areas to invest in development work, if they are to value it, so we hoped to see the buy-in we have achieved through contracted work, but one risk we identified was that it might make our campaigning work harder, around issues like Shared Lives carer pay, for instance. In fact, embedding the practice of coproduction with Shared Lives carers, and developing closer relationships with local leaders, has in some areas made it easier to raise issues around valuing supporting – and paying – Shared Lives carers, rather than harder.

It’s not all been plain sailing, of course. All the advisors who helped us develop this business talked about the risks of under-valuing and under-pricing our work, over-promising, and under-estimating the time needed for work. We thought we’d understood that advice, but we did all of those things and had to learn the hard way. This has increased pressure on our team at times. We’ve coped with those challenges though and this new way of working has not only given us a more sustainable future as a charity, it’s brought a level of learning and insight which we could not have achieved in any other way.

Could self-management work in care homes?

This blog is co-authored by Helen Sanderson, founder of Wellbeing Teams and Alex Fox, CEO of Shared Lives Plus.

Social care’s inspectors, CQC, consistently find that smaller care homes are, on average, better than big care homes. John Kennedy’s JRF research into older people living in care homes found, unsurprisingly, that relationships are key: people want where they live to feel like a real home.

The number of small care homes is reducing, however, because the economics of running a small care home are increasingly difficult. Care home businesses are consolidating as the pressure increases. This shouldn’t inevitably mean that each individual service gets larger, but care homes for older people with 100 beds are commonplace. This may create economies of scale for those businesses, but it may equally create dis-economies of scale, as the markers of great value in care can become harder to achieve in services which reach institutional scale: feeling connected and human both inside the service and with the wider community. Where those businesses are hierarchical, it can also be harder to foster the trust in workers, personal sense of responsibility and autonomy that create transformational support relationships in social care. Some of the largest businesses have financing and ownership models which feel a long way from the idea of ‘community’ or ‘social’ care, and appear to have been used partly as vehicles for risky property speculation. We have seen some huge care provider bankruptcies affecting thousands of older people and there may be more on the way.

So, given that half a million people live in care homes is there a way to create the high value and quality of small care homes, with the economies of scale on things like training and registration which larger businesses can enjoy, but without the added costs of large management infrastructures and profit-hungry big business models?

One approach is the household model, where a care home is divided into small, self-contained households with a focus on creating a family like atmosphere. Dementia Care Matters supports care homes to use this approach and become Butterfly Care Homes. One Butterfly Care Home in Nottinghamshire reports a 43% reduced incidence of falls and 1.7% reduction in staff sickness.

Belong villages have a similar household model. Each Belong household is grouped into an ‘extended family’ sized community for around 12 people, with bedrooms that lead into an open-plan shared communal space, and a kitchen.

In both Butterfly Care Homes and Belong Villages team members often have greater autonomy than traditional care homes. Could self-management take this further?

One of the most promising and widely-talked about ways of organising care and support teams is the Buurtzorg community care model from the Netherlands: recruiting people who are able to work as part of small self-managing teams, supported by coaches rather than a traditional line management structure, with use of tech and data to track activity, payments and outcomes. This model can create better-paid, more fulfilling and autonomous roles, in which people have the time to build consistent relationships, and get better outcomes, at lower overall cost where people can move to independence, because of the better outcomes and vastly reduced need for management infrastructure.

A new briefing paper from the RSA boldly suggests that self-management could save social care. The paper describes five case studies from the UK. One of these case studies is Cornerstone in Scotland, who have drawn inspiration from it to completely reimagine what a large support business looks like around a self-managing rather than hierarchical management structure. The Wellbeing Teams model, which provides integrated, holistic community care on Buurtzorg-like principles, has already been awarded ‘outstanding’ by inspectors, CQC, as has a Buurtzorg UK team. Building-based care services have been slower to experiment with the self-managing model, perhaps because people who are attracted to a devolved, relationship-based way of working have tended to have more affinity for community-based care, but the model’s benefits are arguably most needed in the part of our sector which is most at risk of institutionalisation.

A fully scalable self-managing approach to care homes would perhaps look something like this:

  • Small, ‘home-sized’ care homes or using a household model, with teams recruited who had the skills and aptitude to self-manage, sharing responsibility rather than leaning on a traditional management structure.
  • Those small, largely autonomous businesses networked within a franchise-like structure, with a centrally-developed IT and finance system to track activity, outcomes and payments.
  • Coaches supporting each team and communities of practice for teams to share their challenges, innovations and learning.

Self-management wouldn’t be a panacea for the care home industry: self-managing teams in care homes would also need to adopt the most personalised and empowering cultures and approaches. The best care homes have strong links with their local communities. Few people want to volunteer for a large, faceless company, but where a care home feels genuinely like part of the community, there is huge scope for added value through volunteering, forming Community Circles and the invaluable benefits to health and wellbeing of feeling part of a community, not removed from it. This would fit particularly well with a mutual model of ownership, in which residents, families and perhaps even the wider community had a stake, as well as workers.

Often when we talk about reforming and personalising social care, we focus on models which are the most community-embedded, or, like Shared Lives, seen as the most innovative. But we need to gains of personalisation to reach the whole of social care: they can’t be reserved for the lucky few. There may be models of self-management in the care homes industry which we haven’t included here, so we would be grateful to hear of any examples we have missed. And if you are in the industry and just hearing about or starting to consider this radical transformation, we would love to hear from you. We will be happy to add links to this blog, but most of all we would love to start a new conversation.

Inequality creates ineffectiveness

Youth Justice Officer and author Andi Brierley (@andibrierley) may regret posting such an interesting comment on my blog entry about coproduction – because of course I asked him to turn it into a guest blog. I’m glad I did anyway: this is such a powerful personal piece on why we need many more people with lived experience working in – and leading – our public services. It follows Rachel and Tim’s guest blog yesterday about more meaningful relationships in social work, both of these pointing to the fascinating conversations which are taking place across the adult and children’s services divide about the relationships we have – and those we need – between people offering and seeking support. Andi writes:

I was born to a mother living in a children’s home aged just 16. I spent time in care as a result of mum’s capacity issues leaving me and my siblings abused and neglected. I was excluded from school aged 15, addicted to heroin aged 16 and then exploited into selling drugs by older men. When I was eventually caught, I was sent to a Young Offenders Institution for 18 months. This sentence did little to address my life challenges and upon release, I served a further 3 sentences for offences that all related to drug and alcohol related offences.

I eventually started volunteering for the Youth Justice service in 2007, only two years after release from my last prison sentence. Having been granted an opportunity, I grabbed it with both hands and have worked in youth justice ever since, qualifying in 2013. I have also written a book ‘Your Honour Can I Tell You My Story’ about my experiences, in which I draw on my unique combination of 11 years as a service user and 13 as a youth justice worker, to argue that our institutional responses to disadvantaged communities, children and families do not – and cannot – work.

Let’s take the Criminal Justice System. The regulatory body of Probation and Youth Justice, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation (HMIP) is set up to regulate ‘risk management’ processes. Do these processes keep us safe?

According to a 2016 Ministry of Justice report, 25% of the adult prison population had experienced care and 42% had been excluded from school: they were known to services from a very early stage in their lives, and many excluded from school and criminalised in their care setting (see this 2018 DfE report). So risk management at that early stage was ineffective, and then, post-incarceration, the reoffending rate for children within 12 months of release is a high as 70%.

The most severe risk management tool is incarceration, which politicians want us to believe ‘rehabilitates’ offenders. However, rehabilitation implies that these individuals were once living a ‘normal life’, which the statistics above show was not the case, and the reoffending rate is currently 46% for all prisoners within 12 months of release. For prisoners serving short sentences, this rises to 60%.  I can’t find research on this, but from my lived experience, I think these will disproportionately be care-experienced prisoners: care experienced and traumatised individuals are more likely to be dysfunctional than organised armed robbers. The National Audit Office estimated in 2010 that this reoffending costs us as a tax payers, anywhere between 9.5 to 13 Billion.

So it seems hard to argue that the current Criminal Justice System is effective when dealing with children that have experienced childhood adversity. Research conducted by the US health maintenance organisation Kaiser Permanente and others found children that suffer abuse and neglect in the absence of an attachment to a positive adult show profound neurological damage. They found that that the more exposure to adversity, the more likely the individual is to experience teenage pregnancy, criminality, drug addiction, health problems and even early death. I can relate to this both personally, but also professionally. I am currently working with children that do not and cannot understand the impact of their environment on their own behaviour, yet we continually view them as a risk instead of doing more to change their environments. The criminal age of responsibility being 10 years old doesn’t take into account neurological impairments.

I believe that the root cause of this is the core belief of the criminal justice system that the children are making choices and therefore they can assist in helping them make better choices. This view is rooted in many professionals’ belief that they themselves would not commit crime, even faced with the environmental factors the children are facing. Let’s explore this even further. To become a professional in the care or criminal justice sector, you often require a degree, particularly if you want to rise to senior management level. Yes, there will be professionals that have faced adversity and even some that come from disadvantaged communities. However, they are extremely unlikely to have experienced the level of childhood adversity or transgenerational trauma the children in the criminal justice system have, particularly those that end up in custody. Currently, only 6% of Care Leavers obtain a degree between the ages of 18-21. The number of incarcerated children obtaining a degree will be considerably lower. This indicates criminal justice services, with some exceptions, are being shaped by a group which does not include people who know first-hand what it is like to be exposed to the environmental factors the children within it face.

HMIP recently inspected the service I work with and spent a week reading what we as professionals write on the recording system. They didn’t speak to the young people in reaching judgements about our practice. Now I see why, when I was a service user, I didn’t know the system was ‘managing’ my risk in this way. I was secondary: the institutional process was primary because that was what the regulators focussed on. But our failure to listen to or value service users goes a long way to explaining the ineffectiveness of the system in helping offenders desist from offending.

I am by no means the person with the answer, but I do have a unique perspective. I know for certain that professionals that haven’t experienced childhoods like ours should not take the view that they wouldn’t have been significantly challenged by such experiences. The Criminal Justice System needs to be built upon the findings of the Adverse Childhood Experiences research which can’t show the reason for a particular offence, which is a decision on an individual day, but does show clearly how a childhood like mine affects the individual’s life course and goes some way to explaining the root causes of the behaviour.

The system would become more effective if it was flexible enough to incorporate the views of people within the communities that the individuals come from. Lived experience is a skillset, so we must reduce barriers to work within the system itself, such as criminal record checks. Einstein said that the definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing over and over,  expecting a different outcome. Co-production needs to be more than a buzz word. To create a more balanced, personalised and appropriate response to crime, which will keep us safe and cost less money, I have learned that we must fight the social inequalities and marginalisation faced by the vast majority of children who offend.

How did we do today?

I’m extremely grateful to Rachel Hughes, Lecturer in Social Work, Goldsmiths, University of London, and Tim Fisher (@familygroupmeet) social worker and expert on Family Group Conferencing and Restorative Practice, who offered me this guest blog which starts with public services asking for feedback they don’t really want, and explores how social workers and citizens can have meaningful conversations at a time when the ‘social contract’ between people and services can feel at breaking point. I met Tim when Shared Lives people were involved in one of Camden’s ground breaking seminars in which citizens, practitioners and leaders explore different ways of working together – a video link is in the text below to give you an idea of how unusual and inspirational Camden’s approach to coproduction is!

Rachel and Tim write:

It started with a discussion – or a mutual moan – about feedback in public services.  How it revolves around forms and data categories.  How it never tells anyone anything.  How tiresome it is to produce – for all involved.  And yet. . . on rare occasions, a conversation between a public servant and someone who uses a service manages to change things. What creates that opportunity for real clarity and change?

As with many problems in contemporary public services, the answer lies upstream.  Asking for feedback is a process intended to ’empower service users’ and ‘enable’ them to influence the way services are delivered in future.  Yet it does not in any way challenge pre-existing power relations, since it is a process directed and controlled by services themselves. So compliments tend to be gratefully accepted and pinned to the virtual or actual service noticeboard until they fall off, while any critical feedback is liable to be treated as ‘complaint’ and fended off with all the resources services have at their disposal. Either way, this feedback is rarely seen as a resource for transforming services.

The key to escaping the feedback bind, we think, is to conceive of the activity upon which feedback is being given is as a shared enterprise (or shared endeavour, in the words of the new Chief Social Workers for Adults).  If this happens from the outset, then, when the activity comes to an end, shared reflection is possible.  What do we mean by shared reflection?  We mean a relational dialogue in which each party takes as its starting point the questions:  who is this other person? And what are they teaching me?  In contemporary social work, there is a focus on ‘strengths-based working’.  What we are talking about might be thought of as a dynamic extension of the strengths-based perspective.  Not a fixed professional assessment of someone’s capacities but rather an alive appreciation of mutual learning, a belief that people can surprise, constructively challenge and teach us things.  A parent activist, Kevin Makwikila, with experience of the child protection system in Camden, often uses this quote from community theorist Peter Block in presentations to express what we are trying to articulate here:

“If you are working to make the world a better place, there are few experiences more rewarding and useful than having your thinking turned upside down. A shift in thinking is the essence of transformation. It is the basis of renewed faith.”

As things stand currently in UK social work, there are a number of barriers to conceiving of social work practice as shared enterprise.  In particular, there is a breakdown of the social contract, and there is the symbolic and actual distancing of social workers from citizens who might need their services.  Previously, citizens accepted (or felt obliged to accept) some measure of intrusion in family life (by schools, health services, social services) in return for the State’s commitment to protect and care for them or their dependents should they, for whatever reason, be unable to do so themselves.  But, as a consequence of the policy of austerity, this contract no longer holds (a point made and evidenced in compelling fashion in Featherstone et al’s 2018 book Protecting Children:  A Social Model)In adult social work, we can see people with no continence issues – entirely legally – offered incontinence pads instead of toileting assistance.  Restrictions upon people’s dignity or liberty are authorised because there is no better alternative available.  Meanwhile local authorities’ pleas for additional resources to enable them to fulfil their duties in law go unheard by central Government.

It is not only austerity which erodes the social contract, however, but also the distancing of social workers from citizens, which is both actual, and symbolic.  The ethicist Gert Schout writes of

“hyper-professionalism” – a “positioning of professionals as the exclusive or primary agents of change and their privileging of certain tools and interventions of their choosing, which erodes the social contract, increases stigma in communities about statutory social work and decreases community strength.”  

Similarly, the social entrepreneur and author Hilary Cottam talks about a system of protocols which has slowly accreted around care professionals: “there is a premium on being dispassionate, on keeping our distance.”  That distance manifests in a very real way in the gated and guarded office buildings where many social workers now work.  Gone are the locality offices tucked away within family centres and adult day services.  The new buildings are state-of-the-art, more efficient to run, better insulated – in every way.  But what price that insulation?

For us, the collapse of the social contract and the distancing of social work risks making practice which is ineffectual and, at worst, inflicting relational trauma on already traumatised families and adults.  If we are to achieve the sense of a shared endeavour upon which shared reflection is possible, we need to abandon the rigid separation of public and private spheres which currently blights social work and make space for reciprocity and mutuality.  We must redraw the lines within the everyday of our practice and our relationships  learning from people who have their own insights into using support, like James (speaking here).

This radical reshaping is already underway in a number of places. In Camden, its citizen-led Family Advisory Board is now in its 6th year. Camden Conversations  – a family-led child protection inquiry – born out of a partnership with academic Professor Anna Gupta and ‘Annie’ from Surviving Safeguarding – is a developing case study in the power of parents to change how social workers conceive of their practice. And Camden Adult Social Care, under the What Matters transformation, are developing a new Shared Lives offer, a big increase in Family Group Conferencing for adults and Full Circle community meetings where people help people to problem solve together.  Camden is recognising that we need to move to connect. There are thousands of crossroads where we work – places where we could pass each other by – or form new connections.

In Barking and Dagenham, the New Town Culture project – a partnership between the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, the Serpentine, and Goldsmiths, University of London – is bringing artists into social care spaces, and social workers and social work service users into artistic spaces. Unaccompanied asylum-seeking children are finding their voice in encounters with Franz West at the Tate. Former Ford Dagenham employees and their social workers are meeting leading artists including a Turner Prize candidate to plan and undertake projects which allow mutual interests to emerge in exciting, surprising and sometimes messy ways. Because, as Alex Fox has pointed out and as the Shared Lives project demonstrates:

“For real change to take hold, you need to involve people who don’t always agree with each other and you need a tolerance for messiness: the neater the plan, the more fictional it is…ultimately, we may need to replace our existing power structures with decision making that feels more like those movements: collaborative, decentralised and human.”

We’re off to reflect on our shared enterprise.  Unsolicited feedback welcome!

Best days

Chris and Peter were matched together by Moray Shared Lives in Scotland. Chris is a retired farmer who wanted to give people the chance to benefit from visiting his land and the woodlands he has planted. He was approved by Shared Lives Moray to take on the Shared Lives role and then matched with Peter, who visits for day support twice a week. Peter has dementia and lives at home where he is cared for by his wife. The two four or five hour sessions a week with Chris give everyone time to re-charge their batteries and lead a life beyond giving and receiving care. You can see and hear the two men talk about their Shared Life here

 

The film was made after Peter had recently lost his ability to walk following an adverse

reaction to prescription drugs. The time that Chris has, combined with the opportunities he provides for walking regularly, helped Peter recover his ability to walk, which has enabled him to continue to live in his own home and community. Without the time and support given by Chris, Peter is likely to have been placed in a residential care home or provided with 24 hour paid carers in his own home. In both cases his life would have diminished significantly and the costs of caring for him would have risen sharply. 

 

Peter is not always as alert and lucid as on the day of filming. Everyone involved believes that the support from Chris brings Peter some of his best days.