See you in the New Year

At a time of year when many of us are focused on family events and our closest relationships – and when it can be most painful to lack those connections- this story from PossAbilities Shared Lives in the North West struck a chord with me:

‘Colin’ stays with his Shared Lives carer Molly a few times a year for short breaks, so when he asked her to help arrange his 40th Birthday party, it was quite a challenge, but Molly went all out to organise, food, music, invites and so on. Colin was overjoyed with the arrangements, but very disappointed when few guests turned up. Molly isn’t the giving up kind though, so she suggested they try again for his 41st. She rallied all his friends and work colleagues and kept contacting people until she was sure that lots would come this time. As a result, Colin enjoyed the best birthday party ever. Even better, he met his first girlfriend through this party: something he’d been dreaming of for many years.

That kind of life-changing event happens when you have someone on your side, who never gives up because they think of you as a friend or family member, not just a ‘service user’. Our challenge is to bring those kinds of relationships to thousands more people, through Shared Lives, Homeshare, and in 2020, new ways for people to share their homes and lives, and support each other.

It’s also lays down a challenge for the whole of social care: how do we move away from low-cost, low-longevity care and support ‘transactions’ between professionals and clients, and instead invest in caring relationships that people choose, that everyone contributes to, and that last the distance? This isn’t just a funding issue: parts of our sector have a 25% – 30% staff turnover rate, or services that lock people into the most expensive and least effective part of the system. There is a financial as well as a personal cost to those statistics; money which would be better spent recruiting the right people into the right roles and offering them the right combination of support and freedom to help people live good lives: independent but connected.

So as we look back at 2019 we are proud of the scale of our membership network’s achievements, reaching over 14,000 people:

  • In Wales there are over 1,100 people using Shared Lives – passing the 1,000 mark for the first time.
  • In Scotland the number of people using Shared Lives passed 500.
  • And the UK has over 1,000 Homeshare participants for the first time.

…and we’re proud of the quality and outcomes of that work: 98% good or outstanding from the latest CQC inspection figures, and nearly 90% of people completing our national outcomes tool saying that they are more socially connected through their Shared Lives support, as well as 83% saying it improved their physical health and 88% their emotional health.

We’re proud of the innovations we led this year including partnerships with:

And we’re also proud of how we approached our work: putting people with lived experience and front line workers in the lead wherever we can, such as our new Shared Lives Carer Champions, who are supporting other Shared Lives carers in their regions, who joined our Ambassadors with lived experience, to help us to reshape our work and do more on a peer-to-peer basis. We began to explore how to become a rights-based organisation with support from the British Institute of Human Rights and a domestic abuse aware organisation and team.

We’ve never had bigger challenges in social and health care, which means in 2020 we will need big ambitions when it comes to scale, results and the values we bring to our work. It’s not going to be an easy ride, but there are too many people who don’t have the lives, homes and relationships they dream of for us to give up, so I’ll be keeping Molly’s example in mind, whenever the coming year feels like a struggle!

I hope everyone enjoys a restful and well-earned break over Christmas and the New Year. We’ll see you in 2020.

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