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Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing in Wales, meets Shared Lives members

In December we were delighted to host a meeting for members with Lynne Neagle, Welsh Government’s Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing.

A group of councils in Wales host the first Shared Lives scheme in the UK to offer mental health crisis support and the scheme – South East Wales Shared Lives – were recently highlighted in a World Health Organisation report. Our development manager Kathryn Morgan is on a mission to help Shared Lives schemes grow and offer the personalised social care service to many more people across Wales.

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Kathryn Morgan, comments, “We want to replicate Shared Lives’ support for mental health across Wales and meeting the Deputy Minister was a great opportunity for her to meet people with experience of Shared Lives – both those living in a Shared Lives arrangement and colleagues delivering the service.”

We were joined by Emma Jenkins, South East Wales Shared Lives Mental Health Project Manager and Emma and Pat who live in a Shared Lives arrangement.

How did the first Shared Lives mental health crisis service start in Wales?

“First of all we set the scene by explaining the history behind the service and how it has developed since conversations began in 2017 when the local Health Board were exploring options to see what other types of services were available that would support them to deliver their Mental Health Strategy. They wanted to consider how to support people in crisis in a different environment other than the acute inpatient setting.”

“The Health Board followed a whole system – whole person approach and found that the Shared Lives care aligned with the same principles and outcomes the Health Board were focussing on.

“There were many meetings, negotiations, and some compromise, however the Health Board and the local Shared Lives scheme the service were determined. The service has achieved recurring funding to provide support for many more people in the Gwent area, to live with a Shared Lives carer as part of their recovery journey from a mental health crisis.”

The first arrangement where a person in crisis was matched with a Shared Lives carer, took place in 2019 and to date it has supported over 100 people.

Global recognition

“The pioneering service has now been recognised by the World Health Organisation as one of only three services in the UK to be featured in their guidance and part of 28 world-wide good practice services that promote rights and recovery. The WHO guidance is an overview of the principles of person-centred, mental health services that are respectful of human rights and focused on recovery. It provides in-depth information to all stakeholders who want to develop or transform their mental health system and services.”

The challenge today

Currently only one Mental Health Crisis Model exists in Wales. It is a service led by the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board in partnership with the local Shared Lives scheme and it provides an alternative to inpatient care. It is the crisis element that makes it unusual. This service enables people to stay well, develop positive relationships and live in a community that promotes positive mental wellbeing.  It focuses on adults in Mental Health crisis who would benefit from an alternative environment to a hospital ward.

Our vision for the future

More Shared Lives care needed closer to home

“Shared Lives care might be recognised globally, but we still have a job to do to help it grow closer to home,” Kathryn continues, “ If Health Boards and Shared Lives schemes in Wales worked collaboratively in this way and achieved the same results, we could potentially see over 800 more people who are living with a mental health crisis,  being offered an alternative to hospital admission, or the chance of an early discharge from inpatient settings. They would be supported in a Shared Lives household before moving on to independence.

Shared Lives support available for 16+

“In the recent Welsh Government ‘Review of the Together for Mental Health’ there is a goal to evaluate youth mental health provision. We talked to the Deputy Minister about opening up Shared Lives to young people from the age of 16 years old. In Scotland and England young people can access Shared Lives from the age of 16 but in Wales the minimum age is 18yrs.

Our support for our members – Shared Lives schemes and carers

“We will continue to seek opportunities to highlight the positive outcomes that come from both working as a Shared Lives carer, and being supported – either for day support, short breaks or moving in with a Shared Lives carer and their family.”

“Scaling up services like Shared Lives can take many years, but with committed and collaborative partners, we can really see the benefits for everyone.”

Find out more for your area

If you would like to hear more about:

  • Shared Lives support for mental health
  • how we can support your work with your Health Board or scheme
  • people’s experience of delivering a Shared Lives mental health crisis service, or to hear from people who are living with a Shared Lives carer
  • or to find out more about how Shared Lives care can support young people aged 16+

please contact Kathryn Morgan, Wales Development Manager, kathryn@sharedlivesplus.org.uk

Watch Nikita and Magg’s life-changing story as reported by ITV Wales

Maggs, Shared Lives carer, supported Nikita on her journey to recovery. We would like to see more people like Nikita feel happy, safe, valued and settled in a family Shared Lives home, whilst they recover and make plans for their future.