Ewan King, Chief Executive, Shared Lives Plus
What keeps me awake at night? I think it is the fear that the very best that social care has to offer; person-centred, community-based approaches to support built around loving relationships, fail to grow to their potential, and that the last decade, and perhaps the next to come, are both lost when it comes to growing innovative approaches to support.
When I first started working in the sector in 2014, which was the year of the Care Act, I was full of hope for the possibilities for social care. Although it was a time of austerity I was still optimistic about the prospect of an emerging new care and support landscape; one that could be built on the principles of choice, control and people’s strengths, rather than their deficits.
Undaunted, if a bit less optimistic, I wrote in 2017 in The Guardian:[i] ‘We need an ecosystem of support: good information and advice, access to volunteers, well supported carers, good quality housing, peer support and networks working together to keep people independent.’
One such model which I extolled back then, and which remains much vaunted, is Shared Lives. When I first heard about Shared Lives, which involves a person who needs care moving in with or regularly visiting a self-employed Shared Lives Carer, I was blown away. I heard stories, from people like Meg[ii], who spoke about how Shared Lives had turned their lives around:
“My confidence increased massively. I’m pretty sure that without Shared Lives I’d have given up, and probably wouldn’t be here at all. Shared Lives really has saved my life.”
However, Shared Lives schemes account for just under 1% of long-term social care – well below the size it could be. Another model of support we seek to promote is Homeshare, an intergenerational and preventative approach to housing with a bit of support, which is growing, but could grow faster.
And Shared Lives are not alone. Many innovations, some of which can be found on the TLAP Directory, have remained far smaller than they should be.
But all is not lost! There is still time and there is a large and growing movement of people committed to change and to reinvigorating efforts to develop a different kind of social care.
“We all want to live in the place we call home, with the people and things that we love, in communities where we look out for one another, doing the things that matter to us.”
In recent months we also have a number of new reports, which set out in detail what practical steps we now need to take. These include the Church of England Archbishops’ Commission’s report, [iv] which calls for a reimagining of care, and the Association of Directors Adult Social Services’, A Time To Act report[v].
Key steps include:
- Local councils, their partners and support providers thinking about how to use resources differently – starting from asking how to support good lives in strong communities rather than drawing on traditional services.
- Developing co-production across organisations and partnerships which place people who draw on support at the heart of decisions
- Ensuring commissioning processes take account of the needs of diverse communities and address equity and inclusion, including ethical commissioning.
- Making systems and services simple and human by stripping out unnecessary form filling, so that people can stay in control and make choices.
Its almost 10 years since the Care Act was published, and whilst we have seen small amounts of progress social care has not arrived at the sunnier uplands we once wished it would reach. But there is hope and we have been given some clear steps that we can take.
My wish is that in 10 years’ time the progress made in social care will be keeping me awake at night, with pride and excitement!
To find out more about Shared Lives go to www.sharedlivesplus.org.uk