Support to Shared Lives carers
Shared Lives carers are the core of our Shared Lives scheme. Without them, there is no service. Shared Lives South West therefore puts great emphasis on supporting our Shared Lives carers from the point at which they decide to become a carer, right through the assessment process, the matching process, and the ongoing day to day role in your own home.
As well as the support directly provided by Shared Lives South West staff we also encourage carers to meet together informally for ‘peer support’, run carer consultation groups and offer a carer ‘buddying’ system.
Shared Lives workers
Each Shared Lives carer is supported by a Shared Lives worker, who has a caseload of about 20 or so households over a given geographical area. Our Shared Lives workers are skilled and experienced social care workers and are all very familiar with all aspects of Shared Lives.
Our Shared Lives coordinators get to know their carers and the whole family really well. Just as Shared Lives is a very flexible and personalised service, we try to ensure that our support is also very flexible, friendly and informed, and that when you need us, we always respond. Shared Lives coordinators carry out a variety of tasks, including
- making initial visits to prospective new Shared Lives carers
- undertaking assessments of people who have applied to become Shared Lives carers, through home visits, checks and references
- matching service users into Shared Lives carers homes
- working with service users and Shared Lives carers to agree a plan for the service and the outcomes for the service
- visiting Shared Lives carers home to see how things are going, offer support and guidance and monitor the service
- review the plan for the service at least once a year with the service user and the Shared Lives carer
- help with training, social events, and carer and service user meetings
- liaise with adult social care about any aspects of the service or the service users well being
- offer extra support as and when required and during a crisis
Support with benefits and payments
As well as support from a Shared Lives coordinator, you will also get support from our Funding and Benefits team, via a Funding and Benefits officer. They will be looking at the financial aspects of any long term or short break service provided. This will include
- making sure service users have claimed all the welfare benefits they are entitled to
- calculating what fees are due for the service and ensuring that this is set up and communicated to everyone
- making sure carers get paid the correct amount
- helping service users to manage their benefit income, through our money management support service
- helping with queries about mileage payments, holiday costs, arranging respite breaks and other things that arise from time to time
Paid breaks and respite
To be a carer can be tiring and sometimes can be intensive and stressful. It is therefore important that our Shared Lives carers try to take breaks from their caring role from time to time. We will support you by
- giving you access to a respite fund to enable you to take at least 14 days of paid break from your role each year.
- helping you to organise breaks, using our short break service or other alternatives.
- helping you to identify people who could support you in your role and offer support in your place when you take a holiday.
- supporting you in an emergency through our on call service working closely with adult social care services. should you be unable to offer care and support on a temporary basis.
Shared Lives carer are professional paid carers, who happen to work from home! As such, maintaining and developing knowledge and skills is an important part of the role.
All Shared Lives carers are taken through some mandatory training as part of the assessment and approval process. There is also mandatory post approval training in certain areas including safeguarding, person centred planning and first aid, which is either delivered by or sourced by Shared Lives South West.
Additional training (as required) will also be delivered or sourced, for example in areas such medication, mental capacity, dementia, epilepsy and communication skills. Much of our training is free to attend or is sourced from a cost effective or heavily subsidised provider. This happens in various locations across Devon, Torbay, Cornwall and Plymouth. Sessional activities with service users can be arranged to enable carers to take the time out of their caring role.
Shared Lives carers are not required to have any formal qualifications, although knowledge through experience or NVQ 2, 3 or 4 (or equivalent) are all helpful. All Shared Lives carers who are new to care work have to meet the requirements of the Care Certificate – all Shared Lives South West training supports this.
Meetings and social events
Shared Lives South West holds regular meetings for Shared Lives carers and services users in Devon, Torbay, Plymouth and Cornwall. Meetings will usually have a news update from the organisation, discussion about topical issues and sometimes an speaker. Meetings always allow informal time to chat to other carers and Shared Lives South West staff. We also ensure there is a good supply of refreshments and lunch! Once a year we have an All Scheme Meeting where we try to gather as many carers, service users, volunteers and staff in one place for a celebration of our achievements and some forward planning and our chief executive gives an Annual Report.
Carers are expected to attend at least one carer meeting per year. These are very social events and gives us all an opportunity to meet and discuss Shared Lives. Carer meetings are held in each of the four areas we operate in, in as central a location as possible. The All Scheme Meeting is usually held on the Devon/Cornwall border and is arranged around a fun day out for service users.
We also organise a few social events each year such as discos and summer picnics. We also very much encourage carers to create small informal support groups in their locality through coffee mornings and local outings. So hopefully, there is something for everyone!