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This blog post was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Shared Lives, incubation and community catalysts

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Care and support, Guest author, Workforce

Shared Lives can offer fantastic outcomes for individuals, attests Community Catalysts Director, Jane Atherton.

provide a supportive environment which Jane Atherton: '[Shared Lives carers] enable people to find effective ways to deal with [their] problems, becom[ing] part of the family...'
Jane Atherton: 'Shared Lives carers enable people to find effective ways to deal with their problems, becoming part of family life.'
I believe Shared Lives is unique. The service matches people who need support to live their lives with individuals and families, promoting the development of true friendships, integration into family life and a sense of belonging in the very heart of our local communities.

It seeks to empower people to develop their independence and skills in the most imaginative and creative ways. And here’s an example…

James was referred to Shared Lives following a lengthy hospital stay and treatment for a serious, life-threatening illness. James had had a particularly chaotic lifestyle, moving from area to area and periodically sleeping rough. With no family or friends he was terrified at the thought of living alone.

Now in his 50s, he has experienced physical and mental health issues and had difficulties maintaining relationships. He had money worries and a history of misusing alcohol. There was concern that, if he reverted to his previous lifestyle, he would end up living rough again and jeopardise his health. James now lives with two experienced Shared Lives carers, who have been supporting people for nearly 20 years. Two of their grown-up children are also Shared Lives carers.

They provide a supportive environment which enables James to find effective ways to deal with problems. He has become part of the family, helps with the gardening and care of the pets and sometimes cooks for everyone. He has developed a more independent life, and goes out on his own when he is well.

Because he is settled and has somewhere stable to live, James has been able to start therapy to help him manage his emotional difficulties, alongside treatment for his physical health problems. He knows there is someone there for him if he becomes unwell. He regularly states: ‘This is the best thing that ever happened to me.’

From the Shared Lives Plus site:

Shared Lives is a little known alternative to home care and care homes for disabled adults and older people. It is used by around 12,000 people in the UK and is available in nearly every area. Shared Lives carers are recruited, vetted, trained and supported by local Shared Lives schemes, who have to be registered with the government's care regulator. In Shared Lives, a Shared Lives carer and someone who needs support get to know each other and, if they both feel that they will be able to form a long-term bond, they share family and community life.

Shared Lives Incubator
Community Catalysts CIC have extensive experience of working to support the success, development and growth of Shared Lives services. In 2013, they joined forces with Social Finance and Shared Lives Plus to develop the Shared Lives Incubator. The incubator model combines Shared Lives expertise with social investment to support growth and development of a scheme in order to meet local targets and personal outcomes.

Social Finance have secured £1m in social investment for this initial phase of the Shared Lives Incubator and demand is already high for this method of investing in the growth and delivery of a person centred service.

Further information

Follow Community Catalysts on twitter @CommCats

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  1. Comment by Dan posted on

    This looks like a fantastic initiative and a great way to enable people in communities to support one another.

    I just hope it doesn't turn out to me a mechanism by which local government can avoid providing the support people need...


    • Replies to Dan>

      Comment by Sian Lockwood posted on

      Really glad you think this is a good initiative. I understand your concern Dan but the really good thing about Shared Lives is that it combines gift with payment (if that makes sense). So the families share their lives with the people they support and develop genuinely mutual relationships - but they do get paid. The families are self-employed and for many this is their main work. If you'd like to know more then probably the best thing to do is contact Shared Lives Plus who are the network organisation for Shared Lives
      And your website Razina sounds like a great initiative. I'll pass the details on.............

  2. Comment by Razina Munim posted on

    The Incubator sounds an excellent idea to support more befriending and supprot services for vulnerable people. We hope more funds can be put into developing sustainable Shared Lives schemes. We would also suggest that people contact their local community organisations to find out what support they can offer. Our website is a free service that anyone can use to find their local organisations using postcode search. Local organisations offer a wide range of services depending on the area.