We’re leading the way in recruiting BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) carers to our innovative Shared Lives scheme on behalf of Dudley Council, which offers adults who need support, the chance to live with an ordinary family.
Having only been operational since September 2018, the scheme has drawn on the strengths of the diverse communities throughout the region and recruited nineteen new households already, including seven from the BAME population. There are also many other households registering genuine interest in wanting to become Shared Lives carers given its recent rise in profile across the UK by all local authorities.
Although figures for the local scheme are relatively small in comparison, their upward trajectory is a reflection of wider national statistics according to Skills for Care (2019), where the BAME population represents 21% of the adult social care workforce in England.
Huw John, Chief Executive for the Trust added ‘It is vitally important for the workforce of any not-for-profit organisation to reflect the demographics of the communities in which it wishes to serve. Shared Lives’ co-productive ethos of living and sharing life together, resonates with our founding principles and the 600 people we already support with learning and other disabilities, throughout our 10 existing services and communities nationwide.’
What is ‘Shared Lives?’
Although still relatively unknown, Shared Lives is a unique model of personalised support and accommodation, with a very strong track record of transforming lives, going back many years. Schemes like Camphill Village Trust, recruit and offer specialist training to carers, who open up their own homes to support adults with additional/complex needs, not only to be part of a family and to generate a sense of belonging but also provide a life of opportunity, which they otherwise wouldn’t necessarily have the chance to experience.
Shared Lives is extremely flexible, and the person is carefully matched to live or stay on either a live-in, short-break or day support basis. So, someone might come and live permanently with carers, have weekend respite or just a session during the day or night and be supported to access local amenities/activities. The aim of Shared Lives is to always support the person to develop the practical, social and emotional skills to lead as independent life as possible, whilst remaining at the heart of the community.
Becoming a family
Married couple, Caroline (52) and Gary Reid (56) from Sandwell, who were approved as Shared Lives carers by the Camphill Village Trust scheme just over a year ago, have after several introductory visits now been matched with Meg (47), who has a learning disability and was previously living in residential care after her mother passed away some time ago.
Caroline reflects, ‘I’ve spent most of my working life in social care and would all too often come across very helpless people who were sad, isolated and in need of genuine attention, it broke my heart as I wanted to bring everyone home with me’.
‘When I found out about Shared Lives, I was shocked as to why I hadn’t heard of it before, but immediately I jumped in with both feet, I just knew the ethos was going to be the perfect fit for my family. The scheme was very clear from the start that we wouldn’t necessarily receive BAME referrals, which was never a concern anyway. In the first few weeks of the Arrangement, we’ve been proved it was such the right decision and we have seen Meg achieve so much in her communication, confidence around others and willingness to participate in family life, especially listening and moving to Gary’s old reggae rock, but there’s no accounting for taste.’
Gary notes ‘Although Shared Lives was initially Caroline’s idea, having Meg come to live with us has made us more appreciative of our rich, diverse family. When growing up, my parents were very much at the centre of our neighbourhood, the door was always open, and my mum’s Saturday Soup was shared with all. We would truly encourage everyone to explore Shared Lives further, there’s an amazing sense of self-worth, to know you are giving something back to the wider community. For me, there is also a real need to have positive Black role models for our younger generations in today’s world of negative stereotypes. The saying whatever you give, will be returned tenfold, is absolutely true of Shared Lives and we feel very blessed to have this opportunity to share our family life.
The assessment process which involves an Enhanced DBS check, employment/life history and references, can take between three to six months before being approved by an independent panel. By being part of a registered scheme, Shared Lives carers are paid according to the level of support they provide, up to £570 per week, and because of their self-employed status, also qualify for tax relief.
Candy (56) and Derrick (57) Foster from Tipton and who were previously foster carers before recently moving over to be approved with Shared Lives added:
‘Now, we are both a little older, Shared Lives fits in more with our settled family life, yet we still wish to care for those who need our love and support. Being some of the first Afro-Caribbean Shared Lives carers within the scheme, we can be the voice for the model throughout our local Black community and places of worship.’
‘Shared Lives really means what it says, and the scheme ensures that regardless of ethnicity, the person is carefully matched based on their wants, wishes and needs, to become part of an active family like ourselves. The assessment process was thorough but friendly and we now feel very much part of a wider Shared Lives network stretching right across the Black Country and beyond.’
Whilst the £8bn slashed from local government social care budgets since 2010 (Adass), continue to take their toll on the most vulnerable in society, the Shared Lives model is seen as a cost-effective alternative to other traditional care settings, saving up to £1M for every 100 people supported in comparison. Anecdotally, the outcomes are inspiring, and people are known to lead longer, healthier, happier lives when part of Shared Lives.
The annual report carried out by Shared Lives Plus, the UK network for supportive shared living, notes there are 132 Shared Lives schemes across England, with approximately 12,500 people being supported by just over 9,000 carers, in a sector that has grown by 34% since 2012 (SLP 2019). Shared Lives is also recognised by the government’s inspection body, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) as the safest and best quality form of adult social care, with 96% of all schemes being rated as either Good or Outstanding.
Registered Manager, Kate Morgan, for Camphill Village Trust and also the first recipient of the national Shared Lives Champion of the Year Award 2019, said ‘Since we have established the scheme across Dudley and surrounding Black Country area, we have been tremendously successful and are now supervising 42 households. Within two years, we will have increased the amount of Carers by 100%, which is no mean feat. We believe Shared Lives appeals to particular households which appreciate a sense of community, self-empowerment and strong connections to wider family networks. We are just overwhelmed with the response, and we always wished the mix of our carers to be representative of diverse neighbourhoods in which they live.’
‘Shared Lives provides a great opportunity for individuals with the right values and commitment, to develop a social care career, in what is such a rewarding role. It really does challenge the assumptions of what people who require extra support can achieve whilst living within the comfort of an ordinary home, but with extra-ordinary carers.’
To find out more information about becoming a Shared Lives carer with the Camphill Village Trust scheme, then please call on 01384 441505 or click here.