Looking back on 2022, what stands out to me the most is the resilience of all our members of Shared Lives Plus. Everyone around the country is bearing the brunt of the cost-of-living crisis but especially those in the social care and support sector. As the UK membership organisation for Shared Lives and Homeshare, we are working hard to ensure our members are supported to be the best Shared Lives carer, Shared Lives scheme or Homeshare organisation.

Throughout 2022 I met with Shared Lives schemes and carers to listen to the biggest challenges that they’re facing. When meeting with the Bradford Shared Lives team they outlined some of these; pay for short breaks, training for carers, and support with recruitment. When speaking broadly with schemes the main issue that keeps on popping up is carer pay.

In response to this we have launched the Invaluable pay survey and campaign so we can gather data about Shared Lives carer pay across the UK and encourage the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to consider the fees of Shared Lives carers. The campaign will also give local schemes the information they need to successfully negotiate pay increases with their local authority. Making sure that Shared Lives carers are properly recognised for the amazing work they do is at the top of our priority list.

Shared Lives continues to be supported by central government as a model of care it wants to support to successfully grow, and later this month we will be meeting with Helen Whately, Minister of State for Social Care at DHSC to discuss our work to grow Shared Lives and Homeshare. I wrote this blog for the DHSC, with Tom, who draws on Shared Lives and is one of our Ambassadors, about why it is important for us to grow Shared Lives.

Shared Lives will be featuring in a campaign by the Department of Health and Social Care, the Made with Care recruitment campaign – which aims to recruit more people into adult social care. I hope that this campaign can help spread a positive message of Shared Lives across the UK. A massive thank you to the carers who took part in filming and to schemes for helping arrange.

Our work with numerous All Party Parliamentary Groups (APPG’s) is also an area of opportunity. Our fantastic ambassador Meg Lewis has been invited to join the APPG subgroup for Adult Social Care, where she will be the voice of Shared Lives and Homeshare. Shared Lives scheme worker, Sarah Havard, was also given the opportunity to speak at a Dementia APPG, and brilliantly advocated for the expansion of Shared Lives in treating people with Dementia.

As we try to influence the current government, it’s also important that we spread the message of Shared Lives and Homeshare to the opposition. I met with Wes Streeting, Shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and we discussed the Labour Party’s thoughts on the current state of social care, and what their plans are for the sector. In Northern Ireland I met with Bernie Kelly, Northern Ireland Development Manager and the recently appointed Chief Social Worker, Aine Morrison. We told her about Shared Lives in Northern Ireland, plans for growth, and asked her for her support, which she was happy to give.

Whilst the crisis builds in the wider social care sector, Shared Lives remains stable in England. This is according to data collected from our latest State of the Sector report, which shows that the Shared Lives model remains resilient against many of the pressures taking their toll on the rest of the social care sector.

In 2022, we also saw the expansion of Homeshare as new services were launched in Wales.

When speaking with local Homeshare providers, it is clear the concept of Homeshare is popular, however we need to increase public awareness. I met with Age UK Gloucestershire in October to discuss their local programme who explained that word of mouth is also critical to recruit more people into Homeshare. As our work develops within Homeshare UK, we will be sharing our best practice and knowledge with the wider Homeshare UK network to ensure that referrals increase across the UK.

The Homeshare model helps tackle two massive social crisis’, social isolation, and the housing crisis, by matching householders with homesharers, providing older people with companionship and younger people with affordable accommodation.

In my first few months as Chief Executive I have also met so many inspiring people from within Shared Lives, and this is what motivates me the most. In Scotland I met with Shared Lives Ambassador Abbi, and her Shared Lives Carer Louise. Abbi told me about the work she has done promoting Shared Lives, and how her life has been transformed since living with Louise.

I also enjoyed visiting Wales where I met with Wales Development Manager Kathryn Morgan, and Shared Lives Ambassador, Tom Milnes. Together we met representatives of the Cardiff and Value NHS Board to discuss the fantastic work of our Southeast Wales mental health crisis team, and how its work can inform their practice moving forward. These are just a few of the amazing stories I have heard from within Shared Lives since starting here and I look forward to meeting with Homeshare households in due course too.

We know it will be a challenging year ahead, but we hope 2023 sees the growth in Shared Lives and Homeshare we have all been working for.

Ewan King
CEO, Shared Lives Plus