Why use Shared Lives?

Shared Lives, as a method of care, outperforms other forms of residential care over and over again.  The people who live in Shared Lives arrangements consistenly show their appreciation for the improvements to their lives as a result of living with a Shared Lives Carer, and our research points to significant savings in cost for each placement.

SharedLivesPlus and Improvement and Efficiency South East have produced a Business Case for Shared Lives available here, which demonstrates the substantial savings created by using Shared Lives rather than other forms of support:

  • 10 new long term arrangements generate pa savings of between £23,400 (older people) and £517,400 (learning disabilities).
  • A new scheme for 85 people costs £620k over 5 years, with savings of nearly £13m (reduced use of more costly alternatives).

 ‘Alan’ is a 22-year-old young man in South Tyneside with a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome. Following a breakdown within his family home and then in a residential placement, his behaviour deteriorated and he began to drink to excess despite the best efforts of a number of expensive ‘out of area’ placements. The Care Management team approached South Tyneside Shared Lives scheme. Alan told them, “I hate it here and want to get out”. Some health professionals felt that Alan’s support needs could not be met in a family home, but potential Shared Lives carers were identified and the matching process commenced. This involved a number of social ‘get-togethers’ leading to an overnight ‘try out’ stay, ‘weekend stays’, then a week-long stay, until both Alan and the Shared Lives carers felt the match could be positive. 

Alan has now been supported within the scheme for three months without any incidents. He has stated that he is “very happy and wants to stay with his carers for the rest of his life”. He has begun accessing community education classes and leisure centres and is also contemplating a work experience placement. The cost saving to the Local Authority by providing support within the Shared Lives Scheme rather than the Residential Care Home is a staggering £49,000 per annum (£965 per week). 

Leeds City Council Shared Lives service specialises in short breaks and day support provision. They have developed the service to offer medium as well as short term arrangements, for assessment and to support transition to adulthood or independence. The service provides emergency support following family bereavement, or in reaction to safeguarding concerns. The supportive family environment can offer more intensive emotional support than residential care. Leeds has supported one full time breaks carer to build a fully accessible extension which widens accessibility of the service. Leeds have calculated that this short breaks Shared Lives carer will deliver savings to the council of £30k per year (less the capital investment), based on comparing costs with the costs of equivalent day provision for people with learning disabilities. The saving would be more modest for support for older people. 

Savings arise for a number of reasons:

  • Shared Lives carers are available for support ‘out of hours’. Providing reliable out of hours cover is very expensive in other settings. This is not to say that it is reasonable to expect Shared Lives carers to actively provide 24/7 support or to go without regular breaks. Nor do most individuals wish to spend their whole time in the company of one person.
  • Shared Lives carers typically provide a great deal more than they can be said to have been paid for and are adept at thinking creatively and spotting potential health and well being problems at an early stage.
  • Many people who are regarded as ‘challenging’ in other settings are experienced as less so when they move into a settled, homely environment, where they feel valued and happy.
  • People who use Shared Lives can access Housing Benefit and other benefits, which means that some of the cost of their support is met by the DWP rather than the council. These ‘savings’ are in addition to the genuine savings quoted above.