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Cost of living increases – finding ways through

Shared Lives Plus is responding to Shared Lives carers and scheme workers who have contacted us about cost of living increases and the pressures facing Shared Lives carers specifically. Many people around the world are experiencing a significant impact on their finances and mental health, and even more so for those of us who are caring for others. While Shared Lives Plus is a UK membership charity, each Shared Lives service is run locally, contracted by or part of local councils who have also experienced swathing cuts to their budgets from central government over the past 12 years.

To address these issues, we recently organised a working group of Shared Lives schemes, to which over 50 schemes attended and a survey which 16 schemes completed. We have also received an increasing number of calls from Shared Lives carers about the issue to our carer support line.

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Our work with schemes identified several issues associated with the cost of living. These included:

  • the inflexibility of the benefit system
  • the tax implications of claiming mileage
  • cost effectiveness regarding respite
  • increasing challenges with retention and recruitment of carers
  • and regional variations in the cost of living.

From our survey and scheme responses in the working group, a significant majority of schemes are following the citizens model of payment, although there were some notable variations. The citizen’s model of payment recommends three separate payments for care and support, rent/housing benefit, and food and utilities. These separate payments make it possible to identify and increase payments where they are needed. You can find more out in the money section of the guidance – ‘Funding Shared Lives arrangements’ (log in and then click back on this link).

There were also variations in how people supported by Shared Lives were assessed and charged by their local authority. A few schemes discussed the increased in assessed charge payments which are leaving supported people with little money, meaning sometimes carers are meeting the shortfall.

There was contradictory feedback from the working group and the survey regarding uplifts, with significantly more schemes in the working group telling us they had achieved uplifts between 3% and 6.1%.

What is clear is that there is huge inconsistency in uplifts across the country, both in terms of percentage and in frequency.

Schemes identify a lack of consistency about how uplifts are granted and push back from local authorities as reasons why uplifts can be difficult to obtain.

There were mixed opinions about the £600 one off payment to benefits recipients. Some felt supported people should contribute some towards carers, others felt they should not have to. One scheme suggested reviewing payments overall and  distributing the cost.

Finally, several schemes raised issues around fostering and transitions, namely new Shared Lives carers push back on rent element and landlord status, and the low rate of benefits for young people transitioning from foster care.

There is more information about meeting the costs of living in this week’s newsletter.

The Shared Lives Plus team are grateful to everyone who has contacted us, or took part in the working group and participated in the survey, it gave us a lot of food for thought. As a team we will be reflecting and making a plan regarding the following issues:

  • Consistency around uplifts
  • Approaching the £600 payment
  • Investigating issues into assessed charges
  • Creating more resources around fostering and transitions

Thank you once again to all who took part. The full summary is available for Shared Lives schemes in your members’ account. Please log in to access them. If you have any questions please email membership@sharedlivesplus.org.uk