In this blog, Executive Director, Anna McEwen, shares her experience about taking Shared Lives to Australia
In October, I was lucky enough to travel to Adelaide in South Australia to work with The Australian Centre for Social Innovation (TACSI) and the Wyatt Trust (a grant funder organisation). I have been talking with Carolyn Curtis, CEO of TACSI, for around three years while they have watched how Shared Lives has grown in the UK. As an innovation charity, they have been considering how they could bring the model to Australia where currently people are mainly supported in traditional and more institutional models of care and support.
With the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme in Australia, a nationwide funding allocation scheme for all who need care and support to receive their budget in the same way following the same process ensuring a more equitable service across the country, it seems a timely moment to explore more creative and community based options making use of the assets already existing within communities.
I was commissioned by TACSI to produce a feasibility study and business case to support the development of the Shared Lives model. So, I needed a trip down under to really get a sense of the place, the barriers and opportunities and also the enthusiasm amongst stakeholders including providers, people who use services, family carers, local, state and federal government.
My experience of Australians has always been that they are super-friendly, far more so than us Brits, but I lost count of the number of people who told me about their ‘quarter acre blocks’ as in Australian film ‘The Castle’: A man’s home is his castle. It is very much the ‘Australian dream’ for people to own their own home and this has led to a disconnected sense of community in some places. However, in rural and regional Australia things are different, it is a small town way of life; everyone knows everyone and everyone’s business too. While this is some people’s view, I saw many examples of community activity and engagement, people giving their time and using their skills to help and support others and when I talked to people in local communities about Shared Lives the response was overwhelmingly positive.
During my couple of weeks in Adelaide I ran workshops with stakeholders, met with key people in the various layers of Government across the country and spoke with providers who are already providing services that look something like the Shared Lives model. There are different challenges in Australia compared to the UK that are identified in the feasibility study, but none that cannot be overcome to offer people an alternative to more traditional forms of care and to enjoy a good life with people they choose to share their life and time with.
So, after two weeks of spring sunshine in Adelaide I headed back to London to write up my report which says overwhelmingly that there is a strong business case and rationale to establish Shared Lives in Australia and with the learning we have from the development across the UK Shared Lives Plus is happy to continue to support this.