Transforming health and care through social action

Health and social care are facing a perfect storm - caught between enormous increases in demand while budgets continue to reduce - by as much as £1.1bn this year in social care alone.   

Some of the innovations we are supporting through the Centre for Social Action Innovation Fund are addressing these challenges - improving health outcomes and reducing costs.  For example, Shared Lives is a family-based support and inclusion approach that matches people in need of care in the home with people willing to provide this.  8,000 approved Shared Lives carers share their own homes and family life with over 10,000 adults with significant support needs who either visit regularly or move in to live as part of the family. These include people with learning disabilities, mental health problems, dementia and other support needs. 

The average net savings from a long-term Shared Lives arrangement per person per year are £26,000 for people with learning disabilities and £8,000 for people with mental health needs. 

If all areas caught up with the best performing scheme in the country, Shared Lives could reach an additional 32,770 people and grow to over 43,000.  This could provide savings of over £117m for people with learning disabilities and mental health alone.  

What’s interesting is that the Shared Lives approach is now being seen as a real alternative in other areas where people need support, such as home from hospital or rehabilitative care, or those receiving acute or end of life care.

Another Nesta-backed innovation actively seeking to scale and improve its evidence of impact on health and social care outcomes is Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council. Stockport is redesigning its social care system to ‘hard wire’ volunteering and social action into work with people with long-term health conditions.  It aims to create an infrastructure within which families, friends and volunteers can work alongside health and social care professionals to improve an individual’s quality of life.  The type of practical activities on offer range from coaching and community groups, through to support to self-manage conditions and ‘social prescribing’ by GPs.

Meanwhile, a number of major national charities, including British Lung Foundation, Diabetes UK and UK Active are working to scale approaches that enable people with long-term conditions to support each other to better manage their health.  For example, UK Active is expanding its Let’s Get Moving programme, where exercise professionals work in GP surgeries to help inactive patients to set and achieve personal activity goals.  It is creating a strong network of volunteers who support their peers to carry on maintaining and increasing their health and fitness beyond the initial 12 week programme.

Although Shared Lives, Stockport and UK Active are very different approaches, they share a common focus on empowering individuals to have a stronger role in managing their own health and draw on the vast resources of the wider community to support them. At a time when the care system is under intense pressure, their value in mobilising people to improve health and care should not be underestimated.

Photo credit: Shared Lives Plus.


Katy Rutherford

Katy Rutherford

Katy Rutherford

Head of Programmes and Impact

Katy was Head of Programmes and Impact in Nesta's Health Lab.

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