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Scaling up community-based care in Northern Ireland

Frank Johnston, Northern Ireland Development Manager, blogs here about innovations in social care, featuring in a new report by the Social Care Institute for Excellence.

“Despite the lack of a local Northern Ireland Executive and Health Minister coupled with increasing demand and strain on care services, SCIE’s new report published today shows that third sector organisations are still championing innovative models of care and support. ‘Scaling up community-based models of care in Northern Ireland’ focuses on the creative solutions that support a broad range of vulnerable adults to live good lives in their communities.

Shared Lives and Homeshare both feature in it, as Shared Lives, which supports adults with a learning disability is well established in Northern Ireland and there is also growing interest in Homeshare as a way of supporting older people to stay in their homes for longer.

Shared Lives could support much larger numbers of people and here in Northern Ireland and we are working with the Health and Social Care Board and the five Health & Social Care Trusts to grow it so that more people can have the option of locally based, family care which is centred on the person. It truly is a long-term way of building on the strengths of relationships in community and providing safe, quality, regulated social care.

Take Paul for example (pictured above with Rose), who Mary had looked after, as his foster carer since he was young. When Mary became ill, Rose and Martin, carers with Positive Futures Families Matter Shared Lives service based in Belfast, supported Paul through short breaks, getting to know him on a regular basis. Eventually, when Mary sadly passed away, he came to live permanently with Rose and Martin because of the strength of their relationships built up over time.

In their familiar and loving environment, Rose and Martin supported Paul in the period when he was grieving for Mary and he has benefited enormously from living with the family who are warm and caring and encourage him in all aspects of his life. Paul has also built links with the wider community. Rose and Martin’s daughter, Sarah, also became a Shared Lives carer providing breaks for Paul when Rose and Martin need a rest. For me, it is hard to imagine another caring arrangement which would have supported Paul to overcome a massive personal loss and make a relatively smooth transition into another loving and caring arrangement.

The potential of Homeshare is also being realised, as social isolation in Northern Ireland grows. Homeshare is another model of shared living where older people offer a spare room to someone who needs affordable accommodation and can offer company in the house. At the end of 2018, we launched a feasibility study into the potential for Homeshare to support older people in Northern Ireland which has led to discussions with several third sector organisations interested in exploring how a pilot scheme could be established.  People aged 65 or older are predicted to account for over 85% of the increase in people classed as living alone in Northern Ireland between 2012-37. Homeshare embodies the best elements of an asset-based approach bringing together people who can support each other. A win win for everyone!

For more information about Shared Lives or Homeshare in Northern Ireland, I’d love to hear from you, frank@sharedlivesplus.org.uk 07392 313 502.