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Care minister Helen Whateley MP thanks Shared Lives households

Helen Whately, Minister of Sate for Social Care, met new and long-term Shared Lives carers during Shared Lives Week this week, as well as the social care staff who approved record number of carers under the pressure of the pandemic, using adapted assessment processes.

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The carers included some of the 200 just recently recruited by a successful DHSC-backed campaign using the Covid emergency fund. The carers described to the minister Shared Lives supports 15000 people across the country,  accounting for just 1% of social care provision overall – and yet it is consistently, officially ranked by both the CQC and the people who use it as the safest, highest quality form of social care there is.

In a reverse of typical care services, the new roles, created by Shared Lives Plus, are the ‘ultimate post-pandemic job opportunity’ and point towards the much-discussed topic of the future of social care, as they see carers provide personalised Shared Lives support in the carer’s home – on either a long-term, respite or day-support basis.

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, carers have been called heroes, but they received only a couple of words in the recent Queen’s speech. The pandemic has reinforced the urgency and importance of a functioning social care system that not only provides better value for money but does what it should – improve people’s lives and communities. It has also opened up an opportunity to find new ways to transform our social care system, using innovative services and rediscovering the simple but transformative power of human relationships to support people who need social care – which could be just about anyone.

Helen Whately, Minister of State for Social Care, said: “The pandemic has shown us the increased need for social care which offers more freedom, independence and choices and enables people to strengthen relationships which are so vital to our mental and physical health.

“I’m delighted that Shared Lives Plus, under the extraordinary pressure of the pandemic, with the support of government’s Covid Emergency Fund, has ambitiously transformed the way local authority and independent Shared Lives schemes recruit and assess potential carers supported by online technology, to provide innovative Shared Lives support in their own home. Shared Lives services, funded by our Covid Emergency Fund have exceeded their ambitious recruitment targets. A huge thank you to everyone involved and for all you do. I’m delighted to welcome 200 new Shared Lives carers, over the last six months, into the social care workforce, with over 100 people moving in with their new Shared Lives carer and benefiting from the safest and best quality form of social care available. The opportunity now that I really want to support, is to scale it up so that even more people can be part of Shared Lives households.”

The recruitment drive points towards ways that this unique, best quality and safest form of regulated care service, as rated by inspectors, shows that social care services can be more personalised, connect people with their local community, and also save the public purse.

The announcement comes as a recent survey by Survation last month, highlighted that one in three people who currently live alone would consider living with someone with a shared interest; a key aspect of matching someone who wants support, together with a Shared Lives carer.

The independent survey also revealed that 70% of people would prefer any future care needs to take place in their home.

Currently just delivering 1% of all social care services in England, Shared Lives care has a strong track record of health and wellbeing outcomes, with over 90% people who live with or visit a Shared Lives carer saying it improved their social life as well as meeting their social care support. Shared Lives’ dramatic growth over the past six months, thanks to investment and commitment from six regional Shared Lives services shows its potential for the future of social care services.

Alex Fox, CEO Shared Lives Plus, the UK shared living charity: “The social care sector has faced extraordinary pressures during the COVID-19 pandemic, and we’re facing an opportunity to invest and re-create social services which focus on individuals’ strengths and the strength of local personalised services and communities.

“We believe the Shared Lives format of matching people into the homes of carers will ensure we continue to provide support for those who need it but in a kinder, more social environment.

“Shared Lives carers already support 15,000 people across the UK, so we are thrilled to bolster our numbers by 200 carers this January. These new roles are the perfect opportunity for those who are looking for a more flexible career or looking for a new challenge.”

Becoming a Shared Live carer comes with a good salary, including £10k tax free, plus up to £6k tax free for each person supported (with a max of three people). Carers are self-employed, so there are no zero hours contracts, which enables them to do the role as part of their family and life commitments.

People who visit or live with Shared Lives carers range from young people leaving care, to older people, those with dementia or someone just needing short term support following hospital treatment.

A photo of the Portwood Household in Warrington

Emily and Allen Portwood are Shared Lives carers based in Warrington and have opened up their home to two young adults, Molly and Tyler.  Emily said: “To us, this isn’t a job, it’s about providing a home, security and happiness within our family for those who need it.

“We got into it because Allen, who is a former policeman and has his own MOT garage, was really inspired to help young adults. We looked at all the options and Shared Lives was the perfect choice – there are no unsociable hours away from our family and we can just include them in our lives. We have a big family already – it’s just got a little bigger!”

The jobs follow a £300,000 funding boost from the government’s Coronavirus Community Support Fund, distributed by the National Lottery Community Fund, aimed at rapid recruitment of Shared Lives carers across the UK.

Shared Lives Plus used the funding to develop an online recruitment and assessment website as well as fast-tracking new applicants. This reduced the need for as many face-to-face meetings and significantly reduced paperwork, speeding up applications from six months to six weeks. It’s the first time the charity’s members have adopted an online recruitment process.

Jayne Wilson, Director of Development at Shared Lives Plus, said: “One thing this pandemic has taught charities across the country is to embrace technology and look at alternative ways of working. Shared Lives services have adapted throughout the pandemic, continuing to recruit, assess and support arrangements. By creating an online recruitment portal and assessment process we have adapted a lengthy six-month application process to around six weeks, while still maintaining the high quality standards Shared Lives is recognised for.”

Across the UK, there are 10,000 Shared Lives Carers supporting more than 15,000 adults, through 140 different schemes. The sector has grown by more than 30 percent in recent years. Local Shared Lives services are fully regulated by the Care Quality Commission, which consistently rates the model as the best quality and safest form of adult social care, with 95% of all Shared Lives schemes rated as good or outstanding.

Shared Lives Carers, who come from a range of careers, are carefully matched with their guests and encouraged to help them develop practical skills, build self-esteem and establish new friendships and social networks in their own neighbourhood, which creates a sense of belonging and community. Training and a support network are provided to all Shared Lives carers.

To become a Shared Lives carer, you must be over 18 years of age and don’t need specific qualifications, just the right values, commitment and of course, a spare bedroom.

Shared Lives week is running 14 – 20 June 2021 across the UK, celebrating the resilience of Shared Lives carers as many have gone above and beyond the call of duty to carry on providing the best care to those they support.

Minister, I have a question for you...why are you interested in Shared Lives?