So you Want to… do Shared Lives?
Introduction Shared Lives
The Shared Lives schemes are there to support adults, which can be any young person or adult over 18yrs. It is designed for those who have learning disabilities, mental health issues or other needs that would prevent them from living successfully on their own.
As their carer, you can apply to provide your young person with a Shared Lives scheme if they meet these criteria. As a carer, you then share your family and community life with them and give them all the care and support they need.
How does it work?
- Although there is an overarching membership body (Shared Lives Plus) each scheme can be different. They can be run either by the Local Authority in which they operate, or it can be a charitable scheme, run independently. There are currently around 150 schemes operating in the UK.
- Either way each Shared Lives scheme has a similar ethos and outlook- to provide a supportive home environment for adults who cannot live independently in the community.
There are two main ways to become an SL (Shared Lives) carer:
- By independently applying to join any scheme, undertaking their training and then, once passed by the panel, await a ‘match’. A match is an adult whom, via a series of assessment and criteria, is assessed as needing a supported living environment within a variety of ways, one of which may be SL.
- By transferring from being a Foster Carer when the fostered young person reaches 18 and is no longer able to be in foster care- but is unable to live independently or under the Staying put scheme (called ‘When I’m Ready’ in Wales).
- The decision as to whether the young person needs a Shared Lives place is determined by a long and intensive assessment process carried out by Adult Services, not by Shared Lives or Children’s Services.
- A foster carer can continue to foster while ALSO being a Shared Lives carer- this is called being Dual Registered. Although still relatively rare it is becoming more popular, it works well when the carer and the schemes stay in touch and work together for the good of the person (often referred to in Shared Lives as a ’service user’ or ‘SU’).
- Matching becomes even more important in a dual registered carer situation- to enable everyone to live safely together while the carer continues to meet the safeguarding and caring criteria for both Fostering and Shared Lives schemes.
So what do Foster carers say?
- If you are a current foster carer, with a young person in your care, for whom living independently is not an option, then one would hope that by the age of around 15, when pathway planning is ongoing, that Shared Lives may be flagged up as an option.
- Sadly, this is often not the case. Many many Children’s Service’s social worker‘s know nothing at all about Shared Lives
- It often falls to the carer to suggest Shared Lives…..carers only learn about the scheme when they start looking around in desperation, knowing that the child in their care will not be able to live independently.
- Sometimes, when people do not know about Shared Lives, young people and carers are led to believe that the Staying Put scheme or residential placement is the only options.
- Staying Put (When I’m Ready) are mostly time-bound placements, meaning by 21 at the latest, young people are moved on, unable to stay with their former foster carers. Unlike their mainstream counterparts, our young people with lifelong issues are not ready to leave, even by 21.
- Once a person has been in the Staying Put scheme they cannot usually change to the Shared Lives scheme, so it is important to get it right at the start.
- Once a young person has been assessed as meeting the criteria for a SL place there is no guarantee whatsoever that they have to stay with their former foster carer.
- Firstly the Foster Carer has to agree, (by agreeing they would then have to be accepted by SL and have to complete all SL assessments, training and passing panel to be fully-fledged SL carers prior to the young person turning 18. (Though some flexibility by agreement with both services if an assessment is ongoing)
- The young person has to want to stay with the carer; at 18 the young person has an adult voice and is deemed to have the capacity (mental capacity Act) to decide what they want. This is a huge difference between fostering under 18’s and over 18’s that carers find the most difficult.
- Almost regardless of what the carer thinks/says/wants it is the young person that is listened to.
- The young person is a care leaver and Adult Service Social Workers are very different in outlook to Children’s Services. This means that it is the right of the care leaver to decide their future- even when the carer (that they may have lived with for many years) says differently.
- The care leaver must be allowed to handle their own finances. Or sometimes their finances can be handled by a trust- but it usually means that the carer has no part whatsoever in the care leavers finances- even though they may have been the young person’s appointee on their DLA/PIP account for many years previously.
- Once in the Shared Lives scheme a carer is not allowed to be an appointee and must sign overall finances to either the young person/care leaver/SU or to a trust.
- This again is a huge and complex point of order that carers find difficult to transition too.
- The process of becoming an SL carer is very much like the Form F assessment done when becoming a foster carer.
- SL managers will visit your home regularly over several weeks or months, completing a large and intrusive form that covers all aspects of a carers past and present life. It covers personal life, health, family, finances, expertise, views and outlooks and many other areas. There are often training courses ranging from 2 or 3 days up to a full package of 2 or 3 weeks, run over several months – the variations are large between schemes as there are no fixed ways and each has their own route to the panel.
Information, Help and Support
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