Innovations in health and social care - Shared Lives Plus

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Regulated care and support for disabled and older people is of variable quality and, even when good, does not actively help people and families to support and build informal networks. People with long-term health or care needs are typically offered either nothing, a crisis-only response, or a medicalised response which ignores or undermines their own capacity and resilience along with that of their families and social networks.


In Shared Lives, an adult (or sometimes a 16-17 year old) who needs long-term support is matched with a carefully approved Shared Lives carer. Together, they share family and community life. Half of the people using Shared Lives live with their Shared Lives carer, sometimes for many years. The other half visit their Shared Lives carer for day support or overnight breaks. Shared Lives is also used as a stepping stone for someone to get their own place, and is being developed as home-from-hospital support. Shared Lives is used by people with learning disabilities, people with mental health problems, older people, care leavers, young disabled adults, parents with learning disabilities and their children, people who misuse substances, and offenders.

Evidence base

Shared Lives consistently outperforms all other forms of regulated care in CQC inspections, at 92% good or excellent. An independent report by Social Finance showed that Shared Lives costs £26,000 less per year for people with learning disabilities than other forms of regulated care (£8,000 less for people with mental health problems). Kent University and others have found positive outcomes, and there is now a national outcome-measuring tool in use.

Expected impact 

Shared Lives enables people with significant support or health needs to live well in a supportive household in the community of their choice.

Stage/spread (where it is/how much is there?)

There are over 9,000 Shared Lives carers. They are all approved following rigorous recruitment and training by one of the UK’s 150+ local schemes, regulated by the government’s care inspectors. Almost every area has a scheme, although some are small. Shared Lives has grown by 27% in two years, gaining an additional 2,500 people.

What would councils/local areas need to do or have in place to enable it to happen?

A wellresourced, supported and networked CQC-registered Shared Lives scheme, with support from the national membership network.

What would kill it?

Over- or under-regulation: a careful balance is needed between infrastructure and autonomy. Price cuts or corner-cutting would prevent Shared Lives from delivering stability, outcomes or savings.

Where to go for more information

The national body for Shared Lives is Shared Lives Plus. They offer membership support to local Shared Lives organisations and individual Shared Lives carers, as well as strategic support to commissioners.
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