The UK needs Homeshare

Yesterday, we launched the new Homeshare good practice guide and calls on government (download them at  http://bit.ly/hqZ7KL). We’ve had some good coverage in Community Care magazine:  http://bit.ly/fkNfAr (article) and  http://bit.ly/eGoLLd (my column).

In ‘Homeshare’, someone who needs some help to live independently in their own home is matched with someone who has a housing need and can provide a little support.

‘Householders’ are often older people who have their own home but who have developed some support needs or are isolated or anxious about living alone. ‘Homesharers’ are often students or key public service workers who cannot afford housing where they work. In a Homeshare scheme in Oxford, gap year volunteers live in with older people for mutual support during their first experience of living away from home.

The Homesharer provides an agreed level of help and support to the Householder whilst living in their home for an agreed period of time. Homesharers are not charged rent, but usually agree to contribute to household bills.

Gillian had a house; Neil needed somewhere to live. Gillian was worried about being alone and the responsibility of keeping things working; Neil, who does not own a home, was semi-retired, and could fix leaking taps. Gillian is 88, Neil 61, and they found each other through Homeshare. Today they share Gillian’s beautiful red-brick converted barn in a West Sussex village, with its beamed sitting room and fruit trees in the garden. No money changes hands, but Neil drives Gillian to doctor’s appointments and the supermarket and provides practical help around the house. He is a reassuring and useful presence, both physically and psychologically.

Gillian says, “We both put our names forward for Homeshare and, after vetting, it was decided we might be a good match. We met first in a neutral place, at the house of old friends of mine, then we had a couple of meals out. We haven’t got a terrific lot of things in common, but perhaps that’s why we get on. I think I get more out of it than Neil does.” (This story is from Agebomb – see the link in my blogroll).

There are 11 Homeshare schemes in six locations in the UK (see www.naaps.org.uk),  and we support the national network. Homeshare is small in the UK but much more significant in many other countries where there has perhaps been more investment and less red tape. So it was really encouraging to visit Crossroads Central and North London, who have just taken on the UK’s largest Homeshare scheme, which is supporting 80 matches very successfully and has big plans to develop the service. One of the reasons that Homeshare scheme has been successful is partly location: London, with its high housing prices, good transport links and big pool of young people is ideal for Homeshare. Participants are charged £20 a week, which is a bargain for younger people used to paying £90 or more for rent, and equally attractive for older people who are faced with high costs for often low quality help around the home. And of course money can’t buy you companionship, which is one of Homeshare’s key functions. But this scheme also offers NVQ2 training to Homesharers among other ongoing support and now that it is embedded in the London-wide Crossroads network, Householders can access replacement support should their Homesharer need to go away, and more intensive support than can be offered by Homeshare if their needs increase.

With both older people’s isolation and the affordability of University now major issues, we need many more successful Homeshare schemes across the UK.

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