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What is Shared Lives?

Siobhan and Shane Allen Catherine Lloyd catherine.lloydhotmail.co.ukIn Shared Lives, a young person or adult who needs support or a place to live moves in with or regularly visits an approved Shared Lives carer, after they have got to know each other and the local Shared Lives scheme has matched them for compatibility. Together, they share family and community life. It's extraordinary - because ordinary people open up their homes and lives to others all over the UK. 

Half of the 14,000 people using Shared Lives live with their Shared Lives carer; half visit their Shared Lives carer for day support or overnight breaks.

The outcomes can be startling, with people reporting feeling settled, valued and like they belong for the first time in their lives. They make friends (a third make five or more friends through Shared Lives) and get involved in clubs, activities and volunteering, often for the first time. Half of people using Shared Lives went on their first ever holiday, as a result of the support and companionship of their Shared Lives carer. Find out more about the difference Shared Lives makes

Shared Lives is used by people with learning disabilities, people with mental health problems, older people, care leavers, young disabled adults, parents with learning disabilities and their children, people who misuse substances and offenders. People who are ready to leave hospital can move in to recuperate with a Shared Lives carer, and we are developing it as a form of short breaks for family carers. Shared Lives is also used as a stepping stone for someone to get their own place.

There are over 10,000 Shared Lives carers in the UK, recruited, trained and approved by 153 local schemes, which are regulated by each home nation’s care inspectors. Shared Lives is growing by 14% p.a: an extra 1,300 people each year.

Shared Lives has rigorous training, approval and matching processes, yet also costs less than other forms of care; on average £26,000 a year cheaper for people with learning disabilities. If all areas caught up with those using Shared Lives most, 33,000 people would use it, immediately saving £120m (not including further savings associated with better outcomes). Even areas making good use of Shared Lives are often not reaching certain groups: in the Yorkshire and Humberside region 30% of Shared Lives arrangements are for over 65s, but in the North East, this is only 2.1%.

Shared Lives schemes are regulated under:

a) the Health and Social Care Act 2008 in England;

b) the Adult Placement Scheme (Wales) Regulations 2004;

c) the Regulation of Care (Scotland) Act 2001, superseded April 2011 by the Public Services Reform (Scotland) Act 2010 (Schedule 12);

d) the Adult Placement Agencies Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2007.

Official Definition
The official Shared Lives Plus definition of Shared Lives is as follows:

Shared Lives is a service provided by individuals and families (SL Carers) in local communities and is distinguished by the following features:

  • Arrangements are part of organised Shared Lives Schemes that approve and train the Shared Lives Carers, receive referrals, match the needs of service users with Shared Lives Carers, and monitor the arrangements.
  • People using Shared Lives services have the opportunity to be part of the Shared Lives Carer’s family and social networks.
  • Shared Lives Carers use their family home as a resource.
  • Arrangements provide committed and consistent relationships.
  • The relationship between the Shared Lives Carer and the person placed with them is of mutual benefit.
  • Shared Lives Carers can support up to three people at any one time (up to two people in Wales).
  • Shared Lives Carers do not employ staff to provide care to the people placed with them.

Joint Statement

The joint statement from Shared Lives Plus and regulators CQC 2010, gives this description:
“Shared Lives care offers people an alternative and highly flexible form of accommodation and/or care or support inside or outside the Shared lives carer’s home. Shared Lives arrangements are set up and supported by Shared Lives schemes and the care and accommodation people receive is provided by ordinary individuals, couples or families in the local community. This alternative enables individuals taking up a Shared Lives opportunity and the Shared Lives carer/s to enjoy shared activities and life experiences.
Shared Lives enables a wide range of vulnerable people to live independent lives, have their health and well-being promoted and can reduce the need for admission to hospital or residential care (for example through ‘Home from Hospital ‘ services). Shared Lives schemes can also support disabled or ill parents to continue to look after their children and also young people (ie 16+) in transition to adulthood. The opportunities that Shared Lives has to offer are greatly valued by both people using the service and by family carers and commissioners.”

Shared lives care may include:

  • Long term accommodation and support or
  • Short breaks
  • Daytime support.
  • Rehabilitative or intermediate support.
  • Kinship support where the carer acts as ‘extended family’ to someone living in their own home and where both the homes of the people using the service and the Shared Lives carers are available for contact.

Where Shared Lives carers are providing personal care in people’s own homes, there is a distinction between this and domiciliary or supported living care. Domiciliary carers follow a rota to visit and support a number of people with specific care tasks to be performed. Similarly, supported living carers may provide varying degrees of support but only in or from the person’s own accommodation. The relationship with the person using the domiciliary or supported living care service will be entirely ‘professional’ and will not involve any of the carer's family or their home. A Shared Lives carer supporting a person in the community will do this in the context of a matched relationship as part of a Shared Lives agreement. They will carry out their support in much the same way that a natural family member may provide that support.

Where care is being provided but there is no link back to the Shared Lives carer’s home and family, the Scheme should consider whether the personal care is provided by a domiciliary care service or a supported living arrangement, rather than Shared Lives. In these instances, when monitoring their compliance with the Essential standards, services should check the additional prompts in the Guidance about compliance: Essential standards of quality and safety for DCC (domiciliary care) or SLS (supported living). It should be noted that the regulatory requirements for Shared Lives, Domiciliary Care and Supported Living are very similar and all fall within the regulated activity of Personal Care and in the service type ‘Community Social Care’. Where schemes are providing more than one type of service this should not therefore add significantly to their regulatory burden.

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