The latest figures from England’s Shared Lives schemes show that Shared Lives care continues to grow steadily despite the tremendous difficulties facing the social care sector as whole. The total number of people supported in Shared Lives grew by 540, or 4.4%, to a total of 12,890 compared to the previous year’s data. These small numbers of growth despite the long-term effects of sustained austerity and a lack of a cohesive strategy for social care, demonstrates Shared Lives’ great resilience at a time when the need for robust and flexible social care alternatives could not be more urgent.
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The numbers of short break arrangements grew by a modest but promising 8%, suggesting that planners are increasingly understanding the flexibility of Shared Lives and its ability to fit in with and support wider service provision.
While the numbers of people supported for dementia remained static, those in Shared Lives arrangements with other needs associated with older age doubled to 720. This shows that the model can expand swiftly to tackle specific challenges where there is a will to do so –with the serious pressures facing the residential care sector, the growing numbers of older people supported in Shared Lives are a timely boost.
There are now 500 people supported for a physical impairment – a 14% increase, which is positive news in the context of our concerted work in partnership with NHS England to develop shared living for those with health needs. We have long argued that Shared Lives is just as suited to healthcare as social care, and this growth is food for thought as we explore the potential of our sector to support hospital discharges during the Covid-19 pandemic.
While the size of the sector remains healthy, its quality in terms of the difference it’s making to people’s lives all over the UK, is still – literally – the best in the business. The latest CQC stats show that 96% of Shared Lives schemes are rated as good or outstanding.
Just as important as the official ratings are the views of the people who are supported in Shared Lives, which we capture using My Shared Life, a bespoke outcomes-measuring tool developed with people with lived experience of Shared Lives. The latest data from My Shared Life shows that 97% of people in Shared Lives felt they were part of the family most or all the time. 90% felt that their Shared Lives carer’s support improved their social life. 84% felt that their Shared Lives carer’s support made it easier for them to have friends.
We’re proud that the Shared Lives sector is robust and continues to grow. We call on directors of services and central government to absorb the lessons from the latest data, recognise the potential of Shared Lives to deliver fantastic outcomes for people despite challenging circumstances, and design a more resilient, human, and higher quality care system with shared living at its centre.