We are feeling extra-festive at the moment, because we are lucky enough to be announcing that Shared Lives Plus has been awarded £1.4m by the Big Lottery Fund, alongside £350k by the Cabinet Office and Nesta, to help us achieve our ambition to see the number of people offered family-based Shared Lives double in England over five years. Shared Lives carers share their own home and family life with an older or disabled person, as an alternative to traditional care services.
A great example of what this feels like can be found here, in the account of Leeds-based Mary Crawford’s 23 years as a Shared Lives carer with council’s Short Breaks scheme: “Family was so important to Mary that she wanted others to experience the same love and support that she did. It wasn’t only Mary who got involved, the rest of the family did too! Her children Bridget, David, and Joan remember vividly those who stayed with them. To them the experience added to what being a family meant. Their family included each other, whoever was stopping with them at the time and even the chickens and a goat! They had regular weekend visitors and some who stayed for months and even years and many of them are still in touch to this day. Bridget said: “Mum has plenty of love in her heart to go round – there was no limit; there was enough for us and anyone staying with us.””
10,000 people in England currently benefit from Shared Lives arrangements, many of whom say they feel less isolated, make real friendships and participate more in community life as a result. If we succeed with plans to double the number of people living in Shared Lives households, this will also result in real savings of over £50m per year to councils and the NHS, because Shared Lives has been demonstrated to cost much less than equivalent care for key groups.
Almost every area already has a small Shared Lives scheme, but few people know they exist, so many are under-used. The majority of people using Shared Lives arrangements are people with learning disabilities – however Shared Lives is often also used to support older people with dementia, people with mental health problems, young people and others. The plans to expand are to grow demand for Shared Lives through awareness-raising and to grow the supply of Shared Lives through building learning, resources and peer support and through a programme of social investment in local schemes. We will be protecting and strengthening the values and ethos of Shared Lives throughout this period, including through helping Shared Lives carers and people who use Shared Lives and their families to have their voices heard by local planners. And we will be building an outcome measuring approach and exploring a Quality Mark.
We hope you will join us in working with the 152 local schemes and c8,0000 Shared Lives carers to build the emerging Shared Lives movement into something which fundamentally changes people’s views on what is possible in care and support.