Shared Lives extends the natural way to connect

I was privileged to be part of our reception in the Scottish parliament.  What Holyrood lacks in history it more than makes up for by being such a welcoming, open and inspiring place, which truly feels like it belongs to Scotland’s people, especially as our host Richard Lochhead MSP was kind enough as he always is to take our members on a tour of the chamber.

We heard from people who live in Shared Lives households who talked about the transformative effects of their relationships. As Louise Kennedy said of Abby coming to live with her and her husband, “Something clicked straight away and the three of us have never look back. I’m not going to pretend that we’re the Waltons, we’re three strong personalisites sharing a home and f course there are going to  be bumps along the way, but these are part of family life and we’re very much a family. Abby is unique, and meeting her is a once in a lifetime experience…to know her is to love her.”

We launched a new report: Staying connected – Shared Lives carers supporting people living with dementia in Moray, Scotland 2019 The quotes from people involved in dementia support and Shared Lives say it all:

  • ‘Loneliness is a terrible thing. Shared Lives extends the natural way to connect’
  • ‘My husband goes out twice a week, with Shared Lives. He also goes to a day centre. The carers in both services are great, but the Shared Lives service is better because he’s getting out and about, going places that he wants to. It’s more stimulating.’
  • ‘I know I’m doing a good job when I see the look on people’s face when I arrive to pick them up. I know some women who have started wearing lipstick again, thinking about what they’ll wear, since they’ve been coming out with me. Before, they’d lost sight of themselves.’

We all need to feel seen, not just for what we need, but for who we are. This only happens when people can get out of their own homes or care services and into the outside world, but even that isn’t enough on its own. After years of stagnation, Shared Lives is now growing in Scotland: let’s make sure that everyone in Scotland who needs support feels really seen again.

The canary in the coalmine

This is an extract from a blog from Ben Hall, who leads our Scotland development work. Ben and our new colleague Lesley Stevenson are working with Scotland’s Shared Lives schemes and our partner organisations to demonstrate that Shared Lives can be a viable, national alternative to models which are coming under increasing pressure in Scotland, as across the UK. Ben writes:

17,000 people who live in, or receive care from Britain’s second largest care home operator, Four Seasons, are today left in doubt about where they live, as the private equity firm Terra Firma pleads with lenders to approve a financial rescue package for it. Four Seasons was saddled with huge debts to its own owners after they bought the care provider in 2012. This £220m debt, loaned at 15%, will earn Terra Firma £660m by 2022. The financial struggles emerged today as part of the Paradise Papers leaks.

But it is the small signs, like the canary in the coalmine, that we need to listen to. Last week, Bield Housing, a high quality care provider, made the decision to withdraw from running residential care homes across Scotland, on the basis that this is no longer a viable financial business due to falling funding from local authorities.

The decision by Bield, although small by comparison, is the more profound. When a high quality provider walks away from an industry saying it is uneconomic, then our national leaders need to listen.

These two very different examples show, more clearly than ever, that we need new ways of caring in order to provide the dignity and care to our older family members.

Read the full article here.

Fond of them

We launched the first State of Shared Lives in Scotland report this week in Dunfermline at a conference co-chaired by Asif who uses Shared Lives and Sandy Riddell, Director Health and Care for Fife, who has agreed to champion Shared Lives and said he saw our sector as being increasingly part of the emerging picture of social care in Scotland: “It’s about empowering communities, it’s about choice and control and it’s about enabling people to live independently.”

The report (here) sets out what Shared Lives is achieving in Scotland and also how much more work there is to do, with a number of areas still without a scheme, in contrast to the 100% coverage in Wales and Northern Ireland, and near 100% in England. Some key stats are:

  • 324 Shared Lives carers supporting 434 adults in Scotland, of the 12,000 supported UK-wide.
  • A third receive long term, another third day support and about a quarter short breaks.
  • The largest schemes support 60 – 70 people but 50% of schemes are used by fewer than 20 people.
  • If all schemes matched the biggest, they’d support 400 more people with learning disabilities alone and save £3m.

Those numbers don’t mean a huge amount on their own, but the presentations from Shared Lives carers and Roseanne Fearon, who founded and developed the Fife scheme over many years brought it to life. Roseanne was joined by Ethel Foy who she described as the ‘catalyst’ in founding the Fife Community living scheme and has been a Shared lives carer for 30 years, since she was a nurse in a long stay hospital which was closing. Some of the people had no family or friends and Ethel suggested one or two could live with her, as they knew and trusted her. Roseanne said, “I started to think, why wouldn’t we do that? Because if you couldn’t live with your own family or in your own place, why not live with an alternative family and the key thing for me was that you would inherit all of their friendships and their contacts and that would be really inclusive.”

“There is no magic wand: the Community Carers will show interest and patience and little by little the person relaxes and begins to develop new skills, strengths and confidence – you see the people blossom.

“We then realised that if family carers needed breaks from time to time, why not use a Community Carer? It would almost be like extending your own family.

Kenny has lived with Ethel for 22 years now. “Kenny is now part of the family. He has a girlfriend but he says he’s not leaving until he gets married!” Ethel’s two daughters and grandson are now Shared Lives carers themselves.

The words ‘grow’, ‘flourish’ and ‘blossom’ came up a lot when people were describing the impact of Shared Lives. Shared Lives carer Shiri Vinten talked about how Shared Lives brought out sides of her family which she would never have known about without it. She told me she had asked her daughter, who now works in social care, whether that career had been her goal from an early age. Her daughter said, “It is something I’ve grown up with and have a lot of first-hand experience, so I believe it is only right that there is one less health professional… rather one more person looking out for the individual’s actual wishes. I don’t look at people from a professional perspective analysing their behaviour or medication requirements, rather who they are and what they like… They are just the same as you and me. People. I learned this through my mum and through Shared Lives.”

Judith Harris from the Fife Community Living scheme talked about the young lady who moved in with her three years ago, when Judith, who had retired from a long career in care and thought she’d be happy moving back up to Scotland and playing a lot of golf, decided she was bored: “I’ve seen this young lady blossom. She has a boyfriend; she’s discovered she can do things for herself, although sometimes like all young people she’d rather someone else did it for her!

“You don’t do this for nothing; you do get paid for it, but what you get back is greater than that: you can see someone having a life which they wouldn’t be able to do otherwise. You get such a reward from knowing people, being fond of them. It gives you this feeling that you are doing something, giving something back. You don’t have to have certificates, but you need a great sense of humour, you need a bit of patience, and you need a lot of common sense.”

This was a sad as well as celebratory event for us. We have been unable to renew the funding for our Scotland Officer, Angus Greenshields and we were only able to fund Angus’ role from reserves for a short time, leaving us without funded work in Scotland at a crucial time, when

From the police force to Shared Lives

I’m very grateful to Allan who is a Shared Lives carer with PSS Scotland for very kindly writing about his journey into Shared Lives, providing daytime support to local people:

My name is Allan and I retired as a police officer about four years ago. My hobbies include amateur football refereeing and fair weather motor biking. When I retired from the police I decided to take some time out to do some projects around the house. After about a year and a half all the jobs were done and I decided that it was now time to have a think about what to do with some of my time in the future.

My wife Moira was a little surprised that I was interested in working in social care, but as always she was very supportive and I found out about Shared Lives. Meeting PSS Scotland was the start of an adventure and ongoing learning process for me, which opened my eyes to a lot. A couple of weeks after being approved as an ‘Adult Placement Carer’ I was introduced to ‘Sally’ (all names changed) a very pleasant young lady who was looking for day support several days a week. After being thoroughly briefed and advised we ventured out together. In next to no time we both seemed to click. I gained a lot of good experience very quickly and was glad of the sound advice provided by those more experienced than I. Within a short time of meeting Moira, she and Sally were engrossed in craft making and I was really pleased and relieved that Sally had taken to us all so quickly. Although I no longer support Sally regularly, I am sometimes called upon to help out now and again, which I look forward to immensely.

Peter, who I’ve supported now for the best part of two years several days a week, is a similar age to me and he has learning, physical and communication difficulties. I really enjoy being in his company and I think he feels the same. I encourage Peter to decide what he wants to do at any time I am supporting him and I get great satisfaction when I see him thinking for himself and making good sound decisions about many things. Peter occasionally visits my home and has got to know Moira, my boys and my sister and Mum pretty well. I was impressed at how Peter engaged my youngest son Aaron, bringing Aaron out of his shell and improving his confidence and ability to interact with him. Peter is particularly interested in music, so we’ve been to one or two events hearing live amateur musicians which we really enjoy – despite our difference in musical tastes!

I support Richard, who is now 91 years young, one morning a week. Richard has some mobility issues and is partially sighted. I really look forward to meeting up with him help him to do some shopping. Richard is as ‘sharp as a tack’ and is such a fun loving individual with a sharp and witty sense of humour who seems to really enjoy life. He is quite simply a joy to be with and spending time with him is one of the highlights of my week – we really have a good fun when together.

Finally, I support Simon one afternoon a week. Simon, Continue reading

If I could have picked a family, it would have been you

I was privileged to take part in our Scotland conference this month, at Stirling University. As usual, the Shared Lives carers and service users made the day. We heard from Ethel, a Shared Lives carer for 25 years, and from her daughter, who has also become a Shared Lives carer, as have both Ethel’s other children, now all living in different parts of the country. The first gentleman Ethel supported came to her for 15 days, when his Dad was ill. His Dad sadly died during his stay and he decided that he would just “stay with Ethel until I get married”. He still lives with her. Having had an entirely sedentary life at home, he discovered a love of all kinds of sport and a new confidence to go out and about. He still hasn’t got married, but does have a steady girlfriend.

Megan, in her early 20s, reflected upon her experience of being supported by Lynn, a Shared Lives carer with the Fife Supported Lodgings scheme which arranges family-based care for care leavers. Megan, who has lived independently for a few years now, said “I would have been an absolute wreck without them”. Lynn said, “If someone had told me I’d be doing this work 10 years ago, I would have laughed at them. I’d raised kids and that was enough. After ill health, I was trying to get back into work when I found about Fife Supported Lodgings. A highlight for me was when the first young man I supported said to me, ‘If I could have picked a family, it would have been you.’ Now all my family are involved: when Megan was between houses with a new baby, she stayed with my daughter for a couple of weeks and we’re all going to Megan’s daughter’s first birthday party later on today.”

Support for care leavers in Scotland

Back up to Scotland for the national conference, organised by the NAAPS Scotland team, Anne and Else, along with the Scotland Committee. Great to see Andrew Lowe, next year’s Association of Directors of Social Work singing along to a verse of “Consider yourself part of the family”, led by Jean, who discovered her singing voice and much more besides through a relationship with her Shared Lives carer Helena, which was self-evidently what Shared Lives is all about. Helena decided that the best way to help Jean lose weight was to join her in a diet – just one of the ways in which Helena was putting heart and soul into supporting Jean to build the self-care skills she needed to move towards living in her own place. Or as Helena put it, we support each other. The conference was well-supported: not only did Andrew give a thoughtful and impressive keynote (I’m grateful to him for the phrase, “the dignity of risk” amongst others), Jean MacLellan, Deputy Director, Adult Care and Support Division in the Primary and Community Care Directorate of the Scottish Government, chaired the event brilliantly.

Jamie talked to us about his experience of the Fife Council Supported Lodgings scheme, which provides Shared Lives-registered support to young people who are leaving care. In Scotland, the average age for care leavers to leave home Continue reading