For Shared Lives week, Lesley Dixon, CEO of Person Shaped Support (PSS), which provides Shared Lives in a number of areas of the UK, writes:
PSS is a business with a heart that helps people change their lives for the better. We provide a range of health and social care services that help people from all different backgrounds get the most from their lives, and since we were founded in 1919, we’ve never stood still. We’re always looking for new ways to help – which, in 1978, led us to set up the UK’s first Shared Lives scheme.
As you may or may not know Shared Lives is a form of support where vulnerable adults and young people over 16 live at home with a specially recruited and trained carer and their family.
At the moment, 362 people use our Shared Lives scheme across our long-term, short breaks and day support schemes, and we currently have over 400 carers.
Shared Lives is a great option for everyone in need of some day-to-day support – whatever their needs may be. With over 400 carers, we can match people’s needs to the Shared Lives carers that can best support them, giving our service-users as much choice as possible.
- At the moment, 60% of the people who use our Shared Lives scheme have some form of learning disability.
- 7% of people using the scheme have mental health challenges.
- 10% are older people, who may be frail or need some extra day-to-day
- 8% suffer from dementia
- 5% have complex and risky behaviours.
When we met Josh, he had been using drugs and alcohol as a way of bonding with his dad, who also had a drug and alcohol addiction. Josh was recovering from a mental health breakdown, which resulted in him being sectioned. He came to live with one of our Shared Lives carers in Liverpool to help him recover from everything he’d been through. After about a year, Josh was feeling well enough to return home – and is now living with his mum. Last we heard, he had started attending college, which is great news and shows the powerful impact a Shared Lives placement can have on someone like Josh.
We’re also seeing more and more care-leavers and vulnerable young people using the scheme.
In terms of referrals into the service from social workers, GPs, etc – we’ve had quite a mixed experience. Some really see the potential benefits Shared Lives could have – others know less about it. As a result, we often have Shared Lives carers with vacancies just waiting to be filled – and that’s a real shame.
To fix this problem, we think social workers, GPs and others who can make referrals into the service need to have a better understanding of what Shared Lives is and what it can bring to the lives of the people who use it. We need to help them understand that, although the process of matching a service-user to a Shared Lives carer can take a bit of time in the long-run, the outcomes are well worth it in the end – and can take pressure off them in the long-run.
Not only does the scheme have some great outcomes, it’s also really cost effective. In our latest social impact report, which is available on the PSS website, we found that Shared Lives is 51% cheaper than residential care and 35% cheaper than supported living.
The model’s also really adaptable. We’re currently in the middle of piloting a scheme called Home from Hospital, which is designed to help vulnerable adults leaving hospital make the transition from hospital life to independent, or supported, home life, by placing them in a Shared Lives arrangement for up to six weeks. For every week an older person spends in hospital, their recovery can be delayed by up to six months – and the likelihood of them being readmitted within a year increases. We’re hoping that the Home from Hospital scheme will help people get out of hospital sooner and more safely – saving the NHS money and getting people back on their feet more quickly… but we’re depending on NHS and social care workers to work together with us to make this a success.
We’re incredibly proud of the impact our Shared Lives schemes have had on people up and down the UK and we truly believe in terms of diversity and scale the only way is up.
I firmly believe that Shared Lives is a real choice for all.