Although relatively unknown, the model of Shared Lives has been around for many hundreds of years. Historically, it can be traced back to the Belgian town of Geel, where Saint Dymphna from Ireland settled in the 13th Century. Known as the Patron Saint of mental disorder, many pilgrims travelled to the town so as to be blessed by her. As time progressed, the church and its infirmary became so overwhelmed, that the local towns folk took on the responsibility of taking patients into their homes and accepting them as part of the community. Whilst numbers peaked after WW1, providing Shared Lives has gone on to become very much part of Geel’s cultural identity ever since and arrangements continue to this day.
Here in the UK, Shared Lives or Adult Placements as it was previously known up until recently, started to take hold back in the early 1990’s, when the decision was made to close many of the big institutional hospitals. There has been rapid expansion over the last few years and now there are some 8,500 plus Carers supervised by 153 schemes up and down the UK, providing support to over 13,000 people with a wide range of support needs. It is the local governments’ and NHS intention to continue to grow the Shared Lives Sector significantly over the coming years, as they recognise that people lead better lives and achieve better outcomes when living in the community.