Mark Gallagher, strategic advice and support delivery manager for Shared Lives Plus, plays a key role in advising and guiding Shared Lives schemes throughout the UK on how to expand or diversify their core service.
Here he explains how successful intervention can result in significant growth and that, even in these challenging times, Shared Lives can thrive and help more people to live fulfilling lives in a family and community setting they have chosen.
Covid-19 has had an unprecedented impact on all aspects of our lives since March. Across the UK, people have been asked to work from home, homeschool their children, isolate from friends and family and miss out on important and personal life events, such as weddings and funerals.
Shared Lives carers come from all walks of life, but they share similar values and a commitment to opening up their homes and sharing their lives to offer care and support to those who need it most. This commitment has been particularly evident during lockdown, where they have gone above and beyond to ensure people using Shared Lives continue to receive the care they need, even if it has meant working far longer hours.
Shared Lives has certainly demonstrated its safety, quality and resilience throughout the pandemic, with the recent CQC State of Care report highlighting that 95% of all schemes were rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’, making it the highest performing form of social care for the fourth year running. With pressures on NHS and social care services at a peak, Shared Lives’ flexible, personalised approach also demonstrates that there is another way, outside of the more traditional forms of care, that delivers great outcomes.
Shared Lives schemes have also worked tirelessly during this time to ensure carers received significant practical and emotional support. The nature of the Covid-19 restrictions has meant that schemes have had to redesign the support they provide from being ‘hands-on’ to ‘arms-length’ using Zoom, Microsoft Teams, phone calls and socially distanced visits. Over the past five months, we have seen much closer working relationships forming between schemes and Shared Lives carers and improved partnership working.
As we remain in a state of uncertainty about how Covid-19 will impact our lives over the years ahead, local authorities have started to look at how they meet future adult social care demands. We have been having conversations with several local authorities who have been impressed with how their local Shared Lives scheme responded to the pandemic. From these conversations, it is apparent that local authorities are interested in developing more community-based forms of care and support and having less reliance on provisions such as care homes.
At Shared Lives Plus we are seeing a significant increase in the number of local authorities approaching us for advice on how to grow, develop and diversify their Shared Lives provision. We expect the appetite for quality, cost-effective support, which can operate during future pandemics, is only going to grow and we certainly feel the Shared Lives sector is well-placed to meet this need with the right approach, planning and support.
There is huge potential for growth, development and diversification for Shared Lives schemes around the country. Success requires buy-in from key individuals, a detailed understanding of the local authority’s Shared Lives provision and a realistic plan for the growth and development of Shared Lives.
Our strategic advice service exists to work in partnership with local authorities to evaluate their existing Shared Lives provision and explore the potential for growth and development of the services.