Shared Lives Plus CE0, Alex Fox describes ten features of an ‘asset-based area’ necessary for developing strong communities and sustainable public services. This will be of interest to council, clinical commissioning group commissioners and wider public professionals.
This new Think Local, Act Personal resource started as a blog post. Thanks to the TLAP team and its Building Community Capacity network, along with inspiration from local areas such as Wigan it has now become a how-to guide giving ten pointers towards becoming an Asset-Based Area.
In an age of austerity, increasing attention is paid to what councils and the NHS cannot do, making it vital to gain some clarity on what the organisations and people of each area can do. Every area and its citizens can achieve more when they combine their expertise, time, creativity and resources. Decades of practice and research shows that this happens when:
• Everyone shares an asset-based mindset: looking first for what individuals, families and communities can, or could do, with the right support, rather than focusing exclusively on needs and problems.
• Services and organisations are co-produced with the people whose lives they touch. This means that everyone involved identifies priorities, co-designs services and systems, and works together wherever possible to co-deliver the work that takes place.
Every area already has at least some organisations, professionals and local people who take those approaches, but for them to have a wider and deeper impact, whole systems and areas need to be aligned around an asset-based approach.
Many asset-based practitioners argue that people can lead that change only when acting as local citizens, not when acting in professional or service leadership roles. An asset-based public body does not have ‘customers’ (whose only responsibility is to pay taxes), rather it views everyone, including people with long term support needs, as citizens, with rights and responsibilities. Rather than ‘providers’, asset-based areas have partners, who share responsibility for system design and the best use of resources. An asset-based area is responsive to need, but always looks for capability and potential. It is confident in the things it can do, and the difference its people’s skills and expertise make, but it has the humility to recognise its limitations, namely to fix people or communities.
There are a wide range of asset-based models upon which to draw. Effective and sustainable models tend to:
• Draw on an evidence base and identified model that can be co-produced with local people, for example refer to NICE Guidance.9
• Build local capacity and expertise, rather than relying on outside support.
Most approaches start by mapping an area’s assets. Approaches to this include asset mapping and appreciative enquiry. The NHS Integrated Personalised Commissioning programme10 has published a relevant guide. Where possible, asset maps should be ‘open source’, with a wide range of local people able to update and use them. Co-production approaches include those outlined by Think Local Act Personal11 and Coalition for Collaborative Care.12 Support models which draw (to varying degrees) on asset-based thinking include:
• Asset-based approaches to community development e.g. ABCD; 13 Asset-based consulting.14
• Approaches that support people to become active contributing citizens, and to find non service solutions whatever their life experience or impairment e.g. Local Area Coordination.15
• Community enterprise development e.g. Community Catalysts.16
• Circles of support e.g. Community Circles;17 Circles Network.18
• Shared Lives: Local Shared Lives organisations. 19
• Homeshare: Local Homeshare organisations can be found here.20
• Time-banking: Time Banks.21
• Time credits e.g. Spice.22
• Dementia-friendly communities.23
• Co-produced social prescribing approaches.
• Wellbeing teams24
• Leadership for Empowered and Healthy Communities programme25 which supports leaders to grow and nurture capacity in communities to improve health and wellbeing
This is not an exhaustive list. Ultimately, all services can be offered in ways which aim to help people:
• To build and maintain family and social connections and relationships.
• To build their confidence, knowledge and resilience.
There are a number of ongoing debates around asset-based approaches. Definitions of ‘community’ range from being place-based to seeing communities of interest as more important. Communities and community development work can struggle to be inclusive of all groups, particularly minority groups and communities, and people with stigmatised health conditions.
Some asset-based thinking is very sceptical of the ability of organisations, particularly large organisations, to behave in a genuinely assetbased way and there are concerns that the language could be selectively appropriated to justify funding reductions for traditional services. Asset-based approaches require a significant investment of time and resources and whilst they may result in reduced demand for state services, they cannot be introduced successfully with that aim. Whilst it is vital that decision makers buy-in to asset-based thinking, ultimately it will be the buy-in and leadership of local people upon which success depends.
Maggie who uses Shared Lives services recently asked her Shared Lives carer to write in to us and share her story. We hope you enjoy reading Maggie's story and looking at her pictures. This story is a great example of the positive impact Shared Lives can have on people's lives who have support needs and are looking to become a part of and living in a family enviroment instead of traditional forms of care.
“Hello, my name is Maggie and I have been living in Shared Lives for two years. I have really enjoyed my time being in a family and have made lots of new friends. I have also loved learning new skills, and trying out new things. This is the first time I have rode a horse and it was absolutely brilliant. I now go to eazyfit and the Odell centre, I also go to discos to see my friends. What I do love about Droitwich, is the band in the park in the summer. I have learnt how to cook with the help of my Shared Lives carers, Jackie and Kevin, and I enjoy preparing meals. Another bonus to living in Shared Lives is that I have been enjoying trips out and holidays. I have been to Lanzarote and this year we went to Portugal. Other places I have visited have been Blackpool, Coronation Street, BGT, Ironbridge, SS Great Britain to name a few. It is brilliant to live as part of a family and share our lives.”
Emma and Tommy O’Connor receive MBE for 50 years of caring.
For Shared Lives week 2017, Lesley Dixon, CEO of Person Shared Support (PSS) writes a guest blog for Shared Lives and tells us why she believes Shared Lives should be a choice for all people with support needs.
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.
Shared Lives week 2017 celebrates the diversity of people using our care model, from people with learning disabilities, people with mental ill health and long term illnesses- Shared Lives is supporting people in the UK, to live a better life in a family home.
This year’s Shared Lives week will be about spreading awareness of our care model, demonstrating that Shared Lives should be offered as a choice for all people with support needs that could benefit from using Shared Lives services.
Shared Lives carers often support people with a variety and number of support needs, the positive impact this has on people’s wellbeing is life-changing. Therefore, this year we are urging MP’s, organisations and people in social care to spread awareness, so that Shared Lives is offered to all people that could benefit from it. Whilst it may not be the right fit for every single person, we believe it should certainly be a choice for all.
Shared Lives Ambassador, Michael said: “Shared Lives carers have helped me out with emotional support, gave me someone to talk too, be healthier and I’ve been supported well, and everything I’ve learned with Shared Lives will help me in the future.”
At a time when social care is in crisis and underfunded, Shared Lives can offer an alternative for people to live in a family home, with plenty of support and increase people’s independence- all whilst saving local authorities money that is needed with budgets being cut.
We’re asking all our Shared Lives carers, Shared Lives Plus members, schemes and people who use Shared Lives services, to spread the word far and wide. So many people can benefit from Shared Lives, it’s time they learnt that there is another option out there, in a family home with support- to help people get involved in their local community and work towards their own goals.
That’s why this year’s theme is #SharedLivesChoiceForAll - we would love everyone to get involved on social media. Share your stories, tell people in your community about Shared Lives and spread the word that Shared Lives should be a choice for all people who need support, and could benefit from living in a family environment.
Throughout this Shared Lives week we are sharing stories from Shared Lives carers, people who use our services and spreading awareness throughout the country, please join us and get involved in your local areas.