Learning Disabilities & Autism Real Lives

Shared Lives expands to deliver more safe, secure care

Sarah Cattell and her Shared Lives family (Sarah far right)

Social care providers are always seeking innovative ways to deliver care and support that is safe, high quality, and sustainable – enter Shared Lives.

While it isn’t new and has already been delivering quality outcomes for many years, during the pandemic Shared Lives has been expanding, adapting – and has been met with a renewed sense of enthusiasm among commissioning authorities.

So what is Shared Lives? It’s a scheme with family at its core. Trained carers open their homes to offer either short or long term living arrangements to anyone over the age of 16 who has a support need. Carers, and the people they support, are carefully matched on a number of factors including needs, environment, hobbies, lifestyle, spiritual and religious beliefs and more. These people quickly become part of the family, and truly share their lives together.

One of Avalon’s Shared Lives carers, Sarah Cattell said “As soon as we found out about Shared Lives, my husband and I knew we wanted to be carers, and it’s been an amazing experience. We support 3 people to live great lives in our home, and we are proud to provide a family environment which offers trust and support whenever it is needed. We face any challenges together and we celebrate together. We are just like any other family, and it makes a massive difference to the lives of the people we support.”

As well as being consistently recognised as the safest form of care, Shared Lives also represents a strong value-for-money offering, with long term placements typically saving £25,000 per year when compared to more traditional forms of care.

Avalon Group is one of the leading providers developing Shared Lives in Yorkshire and the North East. Avalon has worked over the past year to grow the number of Shared Lives carers across the regions, while streamlining the processes and practices which govern safe delivery of the service.

Avalon Group CEO Larry Hollando is incredibly proud of the work the charity does with Shared Lives, he said:  “We’ve been successfully working in partnership with Shared Lives Plus – the umbrella organisation providing support to Shared Lives carers and providers of Shared Lives across the UK – and five other provider partners.

“We aimed to identify and recruit up to 180 new carers, and to develop a national online carer recruitment and assessment platform – and I’m incredibly proud of the huge part Avalon played in this project.”

The charity used digital marketing to attract carers, a project spearheaded by James Plummer, Business Development Manager – who said: “We built a dedicated website aimed at carer recruitment (www.avalonsharedlives.co.uk), and created a unique, targeted social media advertising campaign.

“It was brilliant because we were able to funnel specifically segmented audience types to the site to maximise the chance of conversions, or in other words, find the candidates who would most likely wish to be a Shared Lives carer.”

The improvements to the process meant Avalon could complete assessments in two months, halving the time needed.

“This was a seismic change for both applicants and assessing staff, and led to carers being approved in record numbers, soon being matched with people who needed support,” said James.

In a normal year, a Shared Lives scheme would see success as recruiting between 12 and 20 carers. However, the work undertaken to identify relevant audiences, coupled with the digital approach, saw Avalon at one stage identify 11 new carers in 11 days, adding to the total of 30 carers recruited over the lifespan of the project.

The project, and Avalon’s role within it, has garnered attention across the sector and beyond. During National Shared Lives Week (which ran from 14th to 18th June), Avalon’s Business Development Manager, James Plummer, was asked to speak with Helen Whately, Minister of State for Social Care about the success of the project, and how Shared Lives can be developed nationally to benefit the sector going forward.

James said “It’s been fantastic to work with so many other passionate providers to improve Shared Lives.

“We now look forward to sharing what we have learned with others around the country, so that we can continue to build on this success, and so that Shared Lives can offer amazing outcomes to adults around the country.”




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