Here in the Shared Lives sector we’re used to confusing the people whose job is to fund or purchase social care for the local council or NHS Trust. Shared Lives doesn’t fit the usual boxes, it’s not funded quite in the normal way, it has different boundaries and expectations, and so on.
At a recent meeting wiht the researchers at Kent and LSE Universities (the PSSRU unit) who are beginning to research the outcomes and costs of providing Shared Lives to older people, we started to discuss the small but perhaps growing number of older people who don’t have eligible social care needs (ie needs which the council will pay to have met), but who are interested in living as part of a family.
Some have arrived at the Shared Lives service via a mental health service because living in isolation has resulted in depression. Others simply don’t like the idea of continuing to live alone in a large house with family at a distance and are planning for a future when they be less independent. They have the option of selling their large house to move into sheltered accommodation, but aren’t sure that is what they are looking for.
This brings up some interesting questions for Shared Lives schemes and carers. Sometimes it can be surprisingly hard, particularly where the scheme is run by the council, to use your own money to pay for Shared Lives (or other social care services) if you are not someone who has been assessed as ‘eligible’ for support. This makes no sense – if the service is there, someone needs it and they are willing to pay for it, there shouldn’t be a problem, but there can be.
Shared living of this kind wouldn’t fall within the definition of regulated Shared Lives – no inspector would call and the local scheme would have to work out what level of safeguarding to put around it. Our experience of Shared Lives arrangements is that Shared Lives carers stick with the people they support when that person’s needs increase, often even when those needs increase dramatically, as long as they have got to know them, but would this hold true of someone who had moved in with no support needs and had developed dementia- and for how long?
Would potential Shared Lives carers rather include someone without support needs in their home, thus using up a potential Shared Lives place? Would it be hard to differentiate this offer from simply offering a room for rent?
As usual, we don’t have hard and fast answers to these questions. But with growing numbers of older people suffering loneliness and growing numbers of families under financial pressure, all kinds of shared living have the potential to help people live the life they choose.