All people really need

Our Executive Director of Support and Development, Anna McEwen, spoke at a Westminster Forum event on Transforming Care last week, at which it was announced there has been a 12% reduction in ATU usage for the first time. Anna spoke about how Shared Lives can contribute to the Transforming Care agenda, saying:

I’d like to start by introducing you to James. James lived in a residential hospital for people with learning disabilities for many years and was discharged home with depo medication to control psychotic episodes.  He was severely abused and set on fire by family members and so needed to find somewhere new to live. Shared Lives was one of the options he was given.

James decided Shared Lives was a good option for him and was matched with Shared Lives carer Phil who supported him to experience lots of new things, including supported employment, independent travelling, greyhound racing and fishing.  James also went on holiday with Phil and his family which he really enjoyed.

While living with Phil, James’ medication was reviewed ad discontinued but then his mental health deteriorated and his psychotic episodes returned.  When James is unwell he has occasionally been readmitted to hospital.

When well, James lives very happily with Phil. He has a robust support plan, with additional Shared Lives support carers who know him well so that Phil can have a break too. Good support systems are in place to reassure Phil and James, both value the family life they share and neither could imagine James living anywhere else now.

Shared Lives is a family based model of care that supports older and disabled people to be supported within family homes in the community.  Shared Lives is delivered by 125 CQC registered Shared Lives schemes in England who recruit, train and support Shared Lives carers.

Shared Lives carers, like Phil, go through a rigorous assessment process before being approved as a Shared Lives carer.  They are then matched with an older or disabled person who may move in and live as part of the family, or visit the family home regularly for support during the day or short break (for example if they live with a family carer). The matching process is very important in Shared Lives, if you’re going to share your life with someone it’s important that you get on.

As in James’ story showed, Shared Lives has demonstrated it can be part of the solution, it is adaptable and flexible for people with complex needs and has a twin focus on great care and a great life. If you think about your own life, usually the things that define you and are most important to you are the relationships you have and the people you share your life with, Shared Lives enables people who need support to develop these same relationships that are fundamental to our human needs and make us feel secure and loved.

Shared Lives also brings a different ethos to traditional service types,. It’s about having a good life with a purpose, having relationships and based on an asset based approach where people contribute to a household and community.  Being independent doesn’t have to mean living alone, in fact most of us would say we’re hugely independent but few of us choose to live alone.

Shared Lives carers often have a background or experience in working in health or social care.  They may have been nurses, social workers or support staff so they already have a lot of experience in working with and supporting people who have very specific and often intense needs.

We know that Shared Lives isn’t for everyone, that it is one of a suite of more community based options that should be available for people to choose.  It also can’t be a service in isolation, and needs to work together with other community services to ensure wrap around support for both the individual and the Shared Lives carer.

We’ve recently launched our NHS programme funded by NHSE which is providing match funding to six CCG areas to develop Shared Lives in the healthcare sector.  We’ll work with CCGs and local schemes to develop new pathways and opportunities for people with healthcare needs to be supported in Shared Lives. Some have a focus on developing Shared Lives for people from the Transforming Care cohort.

At Shared Lives Plus we think that solutions like Shared Lives and other community asset based approaches should be considered as part of a range of options available to people in the Transforming Care cohort when they are considering how they receive their care and support.  Sometimes, being part of a family, feeling loved and secure is all people really need to transform their lives.

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