Shared Lives like lots of services is under pressure to cut costs. We like to tell people about the (sometimes huge) savings that Shared Lives can make through helping someone to live in an ordinary family household, rather than in an expensive and often restrictive service. But we have to be careful to say also that there are corners that can’t be cut if Shared Lives is to be safe, effective and ultimately better value for everyone. This story from the excellent Shared Lives scheme in Shropshire gives an idea of what we mean.
The Shared Lives scheme coordinator says, “We have a young lady who came through to us in Shared Lives from living in a residential children’s home. We helped ‘Margaret’ (name changed) to complete her personal plan and talk about what she wanted to do in life. Margaret’s aim is to move into her own flat but this hasn’t been possible to date. Margaret is very independent but also very vulnerable so there are some skills she needs to learn before she can get her own tenancy.
“We found her a Shared Lives carer whom she really enjoys living with. She moved in last August and the carer is supporting her with budgeting, cooking skills, housework and general ‘taking responsibility’ of your own life sort of stuff! This has by no means been an easy journey – Margaret can stay away from home for a few days at a time sometimes making unwise choices and decisions, but nevertheless, they are her decisions and the carer is there to support her when needed.
“The point I would like to make is that throughout this time, she has agreed to keep in touch with her Shared Lives carer either by text or by phone, and uses her as a bail out if she is feeling frightened or in trouble. The number of nights she stays away has reduced significantly, (last week she was at home 5 nights out of 7!). She has built up trust with the carer and Shared Lives has provided a safe house to which she can return and which she calls home. The alternative when she came into adult services was a residential home for adults with learning disabilities, which would have been completely inappropriate for her needs.
“I feel she is going from strength to strength. Without Shared Lives, Margaret could have ended up on the streets: she was adamant she wouldn’t stay in a residential home.”
The returns from Shared Lives don’t always come quickly and living in an ordinary household can sometimes involve some risks which might not have been present in an institution. But taking risks is part of living and the rewards of helping somebody to live the life they want as a settled member of their community, are massive for them, their families and for the government.
If you would like to help us spread and develop Shared Lives in the UK, please visit our website to find out how.