Next to the Salvation Army Centre in Peterhead, there is a colourful garden, with ‘Shared Lives’ spelt out on slates along the back wall.
If you have never heard of Shared Lives, you could be forgiven for wondering what it means.
The garden is the brainchild of Fran, one of the self-employed carers from Aberdeenshire Council’s Shared Lives scheme. Shared Lives is a cost-effective and highly-personalised alternative to residential care, where an adult who needs support is matched with an approved, self-employed carer, and either visits them for day support or short breaks, or moves in with them, sharing family and community life.
Fran approached the Salvation Army with her vision of transforming the previously disused patch of land into a community garden. Supported by Shared Lives and the wider community, Fran has worked with the people she supports through Shared Lives to develop the garden, encouraging them to take responsibility for it. Seeing past their disabilities and vulnerabilities, Fran has given the people she supports a new lease of life, enabling them to rediscover lost passions, explore new interests, find a sense of purpose and develop their own friendships. Fran also encourages the people she works with through Shared Lives to think about how they can help vulnerable people in the community. They visit one of Fran’s elderly neighbours regularly, to help with shopping and household tasks, as well as providing welcome companionship.
Little wonder, then, that at 2019 Scottish Social Service Awards Fran was shortlisted for the Untold Story award, given to an inspiring individual who has gone above and beyond in the course of their work.
Fran’s is not the only success story at Shared Lives Aberdeenshire. The scheme was also the winner of the Enlightened Approach category in the Scottish Social Service Awards 2019, for its work in supporting Shared Lives carers to better communicate with the people they support about health issues. By encouraging service users to participate in bowel screening programmes, their work has worked to reduce health inequalities and support prevention.
Shared Live Aberdeenshire was also successful at the Scottish Commission on Learning Disability awards 2019, where Katie, one of its service users, was shortlisted for the Volunteering in your Community award. Katie’s Shared Lives carer supported her to find and take on a voluntary role with the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses and the experience has been transformative for her. Katie previously struggled to engage with others, but her confidence has grown and she is now a valued member of the team. Animated and enthusiastic about her role in digitising the museum’s collection, she has had one of her own photographs published in a book. Before Shared Lives, Katie says, her life was ‘a lot less interesting. And that’s a fact’.
The three awards won by Shared Lives Aberdeenshire in 2019 are diverse and illustrate the model’s ability to deliver successful outcomes. Shared Lives can have a transformative effect on people by supporting their health, reducing their isolation, allowing them to pursue their own interests, contribute to their communities, and live the lives they choose.
Shared Lives Aberdeenshire is one of 15 Shared Lives schemes across Scotland. We know that, due to the highly-personalised nature of the service, Shared Lives schemes and carers across Scotland are supporting people to live their best lives.
We also know that there remain many areas of Scotland as yet with no Shared Lives provision.
Now more than ever, there is an opportunity to make Shared Lives available to more people. Compared to traditional forms of residential care, Shared Lives is extremely cost-effective (with potential savings of £26,000 per person p.a. for someone with a learning disability in a long-term arrangement). It is a flexible model that can support people with a wide range of needs, including multiple and complex needs – clients that other care settings struggle to accommodate in a cost-effective manner.
At a time when social care services in Scotland face severe challenges, as a result of budget pressures and demographic change, Shared Lives is unusual in that it is expanding. This year, 545 people have been supported through Shared Lives in Scotland, growth of 19% on the previous year.
This is a trend that we at Shared Lives Plus want to support and build on. Our vision is that everyone who needs care and support has the option of receiving it through Shared Lives. We want to see more people having the opportunity to live in the places they call home, with the people they love, and to do what matters to them.
We believe that people enjoy life more when they choose who they spend it with. Isn’t that what we all want?
Scotland Development Officer
Shared Lives Plus
Tel: 07387 418 740
Shared Lives Plus is the UK network for nearly 6000 Shared Lives carers, Shared Lives schemes and Homeshare organisations and supporters. We offer expert advice through policy, guidance, legal advice and insurance. We also work to diversify and establish new Shared Lives and Homeshare schemes.