We have heard from many Shared Lives carer members who are worried about rising costs across the country. We have also been hearing from Shared Lives schemes who are concerned about how the rising cost of living will impact their Shared Lives carers.
Shared Lives Plus has had both general enquiries about weekly contributions, and more specific questions around the cost-of-living grant that many people supported by Shared Lives will receive.
Some carers have asked us why the government is giving out one-off grants to people receiving benefits. It appears that the government has decided not to increase benefits in line with inflation. Instead, they have introduced this one-off lump sum to ease the current crisis without increasing benefits in the long term.
The total grant is £650 paid in two lump sums, one in July and another in the autumn. It will be paid to those receiving low-income benefits or tax credits, including many people supported in Shared Lives.
It is understandable that Shared Lives carers, who are struggling with increased costs, have asked us if all or a part of this payment could be passed on to them. The Shared Lives carers we have spoken to felt that this would contribute to the shared cost of running a household and increased cost of living for those they support.
Shared Lives Plus would always advise against Shared Lives carers making private financial arrangements with the people they support. For example, this is also what we advise Shared Lives carers regarding the one-off winter fuel payment.
To ask the person you support directly for a contribution would leave you open to an accusation of financial abuse and a potential safeguarding enquiry. We have taken legal advice on this issue, and our legal advisors have explained that “if the [Shared Lives] carer requests that the money be transferred to them, it could appear that they are taking advantage of the [supported person].”
In theory, Shared Lives carers should receive three different payments, which we call the “citizen’s model” of payment.
You can find more out about the payment model in the money section of the guidance – ‘Funding Shared Lives arrangements’ (log in to the membership area and go the guidance section).
The three payments are:
Shared Lives Plus is encouraging schemes where possible to secure an increased weekly contribution towards food and utilities from the person being supported. The two grant payments totalling £650 should be paid into the bank account where the person being supported receives their UC or ESA. This should mean that the overall benefits they receive for the year will increase by £650. On this basis, it may be possible for the Shared Lives scheme to ask whoever sets the weekly rate for food and utilities to raise this, reflecting the supported person’s overall increased benefits income. This would effectively distribute the £650 over 52 weeks.
This may not be an option for everyone and would have to be looked at on a case-by-case basis. For example, some schemes are contractually obliged to pre-determined rates of food and utilities over a set a period. In addition, it may be inappropriate to raise the weekly set rate where the supported person already receives lower amounts of benefits, for example where the person is under 25 years old.
Beyond the grant, Shared Lives schemes have also talked to us about wanting to support Shared Lives carers to respond to the cost of living by securing uplifts to care and support payments. Shared Lives Plus has already heard from several schemes who have achieved this and is supporting many schemes who are attempting to secure uplifts.
We are in the process of updating this website with some cost-of-living advice and tips for Shared Lives carers and this is where you will also find a full list of the qualifying benefits, as well as more information about how they are paid.
Our carer support team understand the pressures you face and can signpost you to our partners and other relevant resources, or simply be there to listen if you just want to talk. You can call them on 0151 227 3499 or email email@example.com.