What is Shared Lives

As a starting point, Shared Lives is sometimes described as ‘foster care for adults who have additional needs' but it is so much more than that. As a Shared Lives Carer, you are ‘carefully matched’ to support a Person from within your own home to develop practical skills, encourage new social networks, build self-esteem, confidence and lead the same ordinary domestic life at the heart of the community as you and I. When someone comes to stay with you we call this an ‘Arrangement’. You can have a maximum of three people living/staying with you at any one time, as long as you have the bedrooms and living space, but more importantly the right values, time and commitment. Shared Lives Carers are passionate and dedicated about their work and this is why the model is such a powerful and effective form of care and creates a real sense of belonging for all those involved.

Paid to look after the vulnerable 
A short video from Channel 4 News which shows A Shared Lives Carer discussing what it is like to take on the role. 

There are three types of Shared Lives Arrangements  

Live-In – this provides opportunity for a Person to live within a homely/family setting and develop their own links and connections to the local neighbourhoods and communities, as opposed to the restricted opportunities when living in residential/hospital accommodation. You may support the person in learning new domestic or social skills, such as cooking or making friends, understanding the value of money, support with benefits and correspondence or provide guidance to maintain personal care….the list is endless. As a Shared Lives Carer you use your wider social and family networks to create a safe environment for the Person to contribute to real relationships and become an active, valued citizen. Where as in the past, long-term meant a ‘home for life’ and some of the first arrangements from the early 1990’s are still going strong to this day. Live-In Arrangements are increasingly time limited where possible, as we have greater aspirations for people, who may wish to move onto more independent type living once they have developed the necessary skills. 

Short-Breaks (also known as Respite) - the person will come to stay from one night up to a few weeks at a time giving family members a planned break from their caring role or conversely at times of crisis intervention and prevention. This is an increasing and far more personalised alternative to traditional residential respite care and many people use their Personal Budget/Direct Payment to fund this type of Arrangement. The Person will often stay with the same Carers and develop a friendly and supportive relationship as they get to know each other more and more. This can sometime lead to a long-term (Live-In) Arrangement if required, as the Person is already familiar with the Carers and their family networks. Shared Lives Carers also provide Short-Breaks for each other when providing Live-In Arrangements, so that everyone can have a regular break. 

Day Support – This type of support is provided by Shared Lives Carers who already offer Live-In or Short Break Arrangements. Typically, a Person may be looking to be discharged back into the community after a long stay in hospital/residential care. The Arrangement acts as a sort of ‘stepping stone’, to support the Person from within a safe setting to develop independence skills and start to become familiar with the local community by building their own social networks. Alternatively, someone may already be living independently, but needs a few hours support each week to maintain living in the community, by accessing local amenities or taking part in social activities.

Did you know that 92 percent of all Shared Lives Schemes across England are rated as Good or Outstanding by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), who are the national regulatory body for social care on behalf of the Government. In fact, Shared Lives has the least amount of safeguarding (protection from abuse) incidents in comparison to any other form of adult social care provision.

Further information:

A Shared Life is a Healthy Life (pdf)

Evaluation of the Shared Lives Mental Health Project (pdf)

The State of Shared Lives in England 2017 (pdf)

The State of Shared Lives in England 2018