I have to admit, I love these guys. They are imaginative and gutsy and I think they have a big part of the answer we need. When we run into hard limits on our access to financial capital the smart move is to leverage social capital and that is exactly what Shared Lives does.
A major article in The Telegraph followed the Parkers, who have two young children, as they share their family home with three men who were all looking for somewhere to belong: “Roy, 65, has learning difficulties and a history of chronic alcoholism; his has not been an easy life… Ask him what he likes best about this situation and he says simply, ‘Freedom’….’I make sure the fire’s strong, before the children get up,’ he says, pulling an ancient woolly hat over his ears. ‘That’s my job, see. And I like doing it.’ … I ask Mark if he feels happy here and he nods vigorously. Do you remember feeling happy before? He stares for a long time at his slippered feet. ‘No,’ he says almost inaudibly. ‘No one has cared about me before.’” We have been contacted by five documentary makers since the article, so watch this space
I had dinner with Shared Lives CEO Alex Fox the last time I was in London. He is on fire with this idea. The Telegraph quotes him as saying…
“Shared Lives doesn’t have the budget fostering has, but numbers of adult placements are growing by two per cent a year, because people are slowly realising that it means happier lives for less money.’ It is cheap to run – it costs from £13,000 to £23,400 a year to place a vulnerable adult in a Shared Lives family compared with up to £260,000 for a place in a care home.”
There are now 152 Shared Lives schemes –
and people living in Shared Lives families benefit in every way; technically they are ‘tenants’, and as such are allowed to keep their benefits, whereas residents of a local authority home have a large proportion deducted to pay for their care. But coverage across Britain is patchy; schemes in Devon and Cornwall, Lincolnshire, Lancashire, Hampshire and west Wales are thriving, while in other areas it is a struggle to recruit and coordinate carers.