You can’t specify love in a contract

Every year NAAPS hosts a week-long Shared Lives carer break at Ribby Hall for about 40 Shared Lives households. This year I was privileged to spend a little time with some of the Shared Lives carers and service users, who were having a fantastic time despite some lively weather! A very big thank you from all us to the many volunteers from Shared Lives schemes who helped to support service users and make the whole week possible.

This year, the week included a one day Shared Lives carer conference. We wanted to hold an event just for Shared Lives carers as our other meetings can be dominated by the issues brought by scheme managers and workers. We also held our AGM at the conference and voted to change our name – the new name will be launched on October 19th, so watch this space!

Director of Lancashire Adult Services and immediate past President of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), Richard Jones, spoke powerfully at the event about the value of Shared Lives and its important place in the future of social care.

Richard said: “There’s a notion around that we can do more for less, but trying to do more and more of the same for less and less money only gets you so far. We are learning three things. Firstly, that we must move away from the idea that all we need to do is offer a service. People don’t want services, they want to live a life, to be active citizens, to have a job or education, to give something back. Secondly, most social care is provided by families and communities, not the state, so its crucial that services work with those networks. Thirdly, that agencies, particularly health and social care but also many others, need to work together much, much better.”

Richard believes that Shared Lives is different. “You are helping people to achieve very different outcomes to the traditional, helping people become active citizens. Shared Lives outperforms a whole range of other services on quality, outcomes and value, because Shared Lives carers have a different relationship. In other services things vary according to who is on duty; in Shared Lives the individual is part of the family. You can’t write love into a service specification. I recently met ‘M’. He didn’t know what a family was until he came into Shared Lives – he’d been institutionalised since a child and was desperate for a relationship, because he is a human being. He is now a godfather, he’s been to weddings – you can’t put a cash value on that, but you can measure the savings to public services.”

We learned that in Lancashire, Shared Lives costs the council £197 per week, compared to personal budgets of £320 – 500 for supported living arrangements, residential care costs averaging £750 and nursing and specialist services costing £1000+. Lancashire is investing £750,000 in a service which Richard admits he’d lost track of for several years as a Director. “I won’t forget about it again!” Richard felt that NAAPS and Shared Lives schemes and carers needed to much more to raise awareness with his fellow Directors and committed himself to helping to ensure that ADASS colleagues hear the Shared Lives message.

Richard also answered some tough questions from Shared Lives carers about the increasing pressures upon them, in many cases not matched by more support and certainly not by more money! Some carers had received no uplift in seven years, despite the council’s employees receiving uplifts every year. This says something about how we value different roles. In a previous blog, I told the story of a Shared Lives carer and her husband who were saving the council £3000 every week through their incredibly demanding support for young man with learning disabilities and a history of offending. The council had been unable to arrange a break for them for three years. We at NAAPS need to give a message about Shared Lives and savings but we also need to help Shared Lives carers to campaign for recognition and fairness. A council saving £3000 a week, should be willing to spend virtually whatever it takes to give those carers a break, which will in turn help to ensure their caring role continues. My new colleague Tris Brown is working with Shared Lives carers to develop campaigns on issues like these. You can contact him on

3 thoughts on “You can’t specify love in a contract

  1. Tim Southern September 16, 2011 / 3:40 pm

    It’s great to hear from people in Richard’s position “getting” what shared lives is all about. Let’s hope Richard talks to his Director and Commissioner friends across the UK because his words are at the least encouraging; at best – inspiring.

  2. jolleyroger June 12, 2012 / 9:57 pm

    If a person who is in shared lives long term and who has been with the family for many many years becomes terminally ill, do you think the carer should be paid more for the extra care that is needed?

    • alexfoxblog June 13, 2012 / 8:30 am

      thanks for your question. Where someone’s care needs change, they are entitled to ask for a new community care assessment. If that assessment shows that their support needs have increased, more money should be made available to pay for the extra care that is needed. Sometimes that extra care is best provided by day services, sometimes by their Shared Lives carer, who I agree would need to be paid more to provide it. We often remind people that, whilst a Shared Lives carer is often called upon to provide support at any time of day or night, it is not reasonable to expect anyone to provide care 24/7. It’s not fair on either the Shared Lives carer, or the person receiving support, who is unlikely to want to stay in the carer’s home all day, every day. It doesn’t always work the way I’ve outlined above and where someone’s care needs are going unmet or unrecognised, they may well need to access support or advocacy to ensure they get a new assessment.

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