Shared Lives Plus
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Nesta’s own research has found there’s often a gap between what matters most to our health and wellbeing - having meaningful connections, a sense of purpose and staying independent - and the priorities of existing care services.

‘Shared Lives’ is a radical form of adult social care which aims to go further than meeting basic needs, by focusing on providing a better quality of life for those in care. Carers welcome adults who need support to live as part of the community into their families (and their homes), which could be older people, people with learning disabilities or those with mental health issues, as an alternative to traditional care services in residential institutions.

“A Shared Lives carer is matched for compatibility with an older or disabled person who then either moves in with them and lives as part of the family, or visits the family home regularly for support during the day or short breaks,” says Anna McEwen, Executive Director of Support and Development for Shared Lives Plus.

Shared Lives Plus family

Shared Lives Plus family

Shared Lives Plus is the membership network that matches approved carers with adults in need of support; provides resources, training, insurance and ongoing support to carers, and champions the benefits of the model at national level.

“Shared Lives gives people a good life, involving the things that most of us take for granted: feeling loved, belonging, developing relationships, and spending time doing things we enjoy.”

Shared Lives Plus was awarded £492,866 through the Centre for Social Action Innovation Fund (CSAIF), and a further £1.4m from the Big Lottery Fund, to help meet its ambitious goal to double the Shared Lives sector in England over five years.

“We’re coming to the end of year three [of our plan] and we’re on track with our growth so far,” says Anna. “Shared Lives in England has grown 27% in the last two years at a time when social care is declining overall and pressures within local authorities have never been greater.”

More than 9,000 volunteers are now supporting more than 13,000 vulnerable adults across the UK, half of whom have been able to go on their first ever holiday as a result.

“Shared Lives gives people a good life, involving the things that most of us take for granted: feeling loved, belonging, developing relationships, and spending time doing things we enjoy.”

Anna McEwen

Shared Lives carers receive a weekly payment for the care they provide (typically £250-£400), but they include someone in their family 24 hours a day. The model can potentially save local authorities around £26,000 per person, compared to residential care.

“Shared Lives is really cost effective when you compare it with other forms of social care. This gives us a compelling argument to use with commissioners when they are looking to do things differently and use new and innovative models of support,” says Anna.

The CSAIF funding was mainly used to bring in key team members at Shared Lives Plus, including a Development Officer for older people, a Development Officer for mental ill health and a post offering support to scheme members to help ensure the quality of care as the organisation grows.

“The funding has helped us to develop as an organisation, adding senior capacity to lead and develop the charity and we’ve grown considerably as a result of this."

Anna McEwan

Along with a new programme in partnership with NHS England to develop Shared Lives in the health sector, Shared Lives Plus is now being supported through the Accelerating Ideas pilot, a partnership between Nesta and the Big Lottery Fund, to scale the model across the UK, with a particular focus on expanding outside of England.

“We’re now taking the learning from our work in England to the other nations to support the growth and development of Shared Lives in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, where the model is currently less developed,” adds Anna.

“Our ambition is that all older and disabled people have Shared Lives as a choice when deciding how they want their care and support needs to be met.”

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Shared Lives Plus was one of 52 organisations backed by the Centre for Social Action Innovation Fund, a £14.5m fund designed to increase volunteering and social action within communities. The fund supported organisations with brilliant ideas to encourage more people to give their time and energy to help others, working alongside public services