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Shared Lives and human rights

Each year Shared Lives week celebrates the transforming roles of Shared Lives carers.

This year we are focussing on how Shared Lives, unlike many traditional institutional forms of care, promotes the human rights of the people who share their lives.

Just recently we have seen how some of the most fundamental and basic human rights have been denied disabled people and people with support needs. The right to life (article 2,) the right not to be tortured or treated in an inhuman or degrading way (article 3,) and the right to liberty (article 5,) have all been trampled on.

People have died because they’ve had a learning disability, and adults and children who need support are left in solitary confinement. In other institutions, people have been abused and humiliated in the most appalling ways, recently exposed by BBC Panorama.

Shared Lives is consistently rated as the safest form of social care, although this doesn’t mean that bad things could never happen in a Shared Lives arrangement. But Shared Lives isn’t simply about keeping people safe from harm, abuse and imprisonment – it is about recognising that everyone has human rights to more than just the basics of a decent life.  Part of Shared Lives’ power lies in the way people who need to use services are able to shape them. A person being supported chooses the Shared Lives carer they are matched with – based on their compatibility as people.

People being supported in Shared Lives live as part of a family, home and community are often able to pursue the things they have always wanted to do – including fulfilling life-long ambitions, learning new skills, having new experiences and making new friends. They develop and exercise freedoms that we all deserve:

Freedom of expression

People in a supportive and loving Shared Lives household are free to speak their mind – and argue with their Shared Lives carer! Like Chris, who at first ‘used to say things because he thought (Ali) wanted to hear them.’

Right to peaceful enjoyment of possessions

Many people in Shared Lives households are proud of having their own space and the things to fill them, like Kurtis:  “I buy my own clothes because I became an adult. I buy all of them myself.”

Right to education

Shared Lives families are a wonderful platform for learning and growing as a person, like Michelle in Birmingham has: “The progress has been amazing. Michelle has learned a lot, personally and through her education. She’s really articulate and is great with numbers.”

Right to respect for family life

If a single word could sum Shared Lives up, it would probably be ‘relationships.’ But it’s not just about the relationship between Shared Lives carer and the person they support: 93% of people in Shared Lives felt that their social life had improved and 83% found it easier to have friends. Instead of acting as a replacement family for people being supported, often Shared Lives helps to improve relations with existing families, like Chris who said ‘Shared Lives helped me build more of a bridge with my dad.’

How to promote human rights in your community