I met recently with Shared Lives Plus the UK charity for the adult placement model of care. Adult placement schemes are unique in that adults needing care can choose to receive this support in an approved Shared Lives family home in the community. Schemes have been running successfully in Northern Ireland for over 20 years with the other 4 Health & Social Care Trusts. I am concerned that the SE Trust has no adult placement scheme for adults needing care and their families within the Trust area. This is at a time when all recent health reviews have emphasised the need for transformation and reform and a move to more choice and community based care pathways. The Department of Health has also undertaken a review of adult social care this year in recognition of the urgent need for reform and innovation around social care.
Community based care for adults with a learning disability
Current Health Trust adult placement schemes here are supporting adults with a learning disability who benefit from community based day and short breaks care living with adult placement families. This gives their family carers a much-needed break and these adults benefit from making new friends and taking up new interests and activities. Adult placement families are also providing homes for adults with a learning disability on a permanent care arrangement as an alternative to institutional and other types of care. All schemes are regulated by RQIA and are highly rated by inspection bodies across the UK. Shared Lives Plus has also shared some research highlighting that adult placement care placements are up to £26,000 a year cheaper for adults with a learning disability when compared to care in an institution. Adult Placement carers are paid allowances and like foster carers benefit from a tax break with the Inland Revenue.
Community based care for older adults and other groups
Shared Lives Plus has recently been funded by the National Lottery and a global innovation charity called NESTA to fund a development post in Northern Ireland. They are keen to engage with and support Health Trusts here to scale up their adult placement provision to benefit more adults with a learning disability but also older people. Adult placement schemes are supporting increasing numbers of older people in other parts of the UK including short breaks support for people with dementia. The expected increase in the numbers of older people within the Trust will be significant over the coming years. Shared Lives carers can often be more flexible than residential providers and allow people to remain in the community while their family carers get a break.
I am also aware that the Department of Health and Health & Social Care Board sponsored a Shared Lives workshop in June with all the Health Trusts in Northern Ireland. I am keen to know if the SE Trust will support this and take this forward to help support families who need much needed support.