It’s Shared Lives week, which this year includes a parliamentary reception hosted by Jonathan Reynolds MP, Vice Chair of the parliamentary group on Autism at which we will announce the first group of local NHS trusts who will receive match funding and expert support to develop Shared Lives as a health service.
The theme of the week is Shared Lives Together. Lots of our communications this week will focus on what that means for the individuals directly involved in Shared Lives: people who feel now like they have a place in which they belong; households which feel that they have become richer for the experience: “Turns out this fills a gap which we didn’t even know was there”.
I’d also like to say something about the way that Shared Lives not only helps to build strong, resilient households, but can also play a part in strengthening the community around that household. We hear time and again about the friends which the individual living in a Shared Lives household has made, about their roles as volunteers, members of local groups and employees of local businesses. One Shared Lives carer told me that the reason she knew all her neighbours was solely because the young lady who came to live with her had a gift for making friends (the Shared Lives carer’s role often being to help her make good choices about those friendships). Another individual liked to help his neighbours in small ways like putting bins out, which they knew was appreciated from the number of Christmas cards he received each year. Small connections which can make a big difference to how a place feels like to live in.
That link between supporting individuals and community development, feels like it is one which needs to be made more often. Without making that link, you have “community care” which doesn’t enable people to feel part of a community, and community development work which inadvertently excludes people who have support needs and who can sometimes be amongst the most isolated.
Shared Lives is an illustration of how, with the right resources and back up, strong relationships within a household can lead to stronger relationships within the neighbourhood. Shared Lives households don’t just focus inwards but also reach outwards, to make the connections which start to feel like community, and which ultimately, help to build better places for us all to live in.