Oxfordshire’s Shared Lives and Homeshare programmes receive welcome funding boost

New funding has been secured in Oxfordshire to help expand existing programmes that enable adults with additional needs to live independently, supported in a welcoming home environment.

Oxfordshire County Council’s Shared Lives programme and Age UK Oxfordshire’s Homeshare project stand to benefit from the first round of funding from the Department for Health and Social Care’s (DHSC) Accelerating Reform Fund (ARF).

In announcing the first round of funding, Helen Whately MP, Minister for Health and Social Care, visited Shared Lives carer, Sarah Rees, who has been part of the Oxfordshire County Council programme since 2020.

Based in Grove, Sarah offers a place to stay for adults with learning disabilities, mental health problems or other needs that make it harder for them to live on their own.

She welcomes adults into her home for short-term and emergency stays, as well as more long-term arrangements, supporting people to live as independently as possible within a family setting.

Sarah said: “Being part of Shared Lives has given me the chance to meet some incredible people.

“It’s important that people feel like they’re part of the family when they stay with us. This can be as easy as taking our dog, Hugo, for a walk in the park. That sense of normality can be just what people need to really put them at ease.

“Sometimes the support offered in more formal settings just doesn’t work for people. They just don’t seem to fit. But everyone fits in Shared Lives.”

During her visit, Helen Whately MP also met three people who regularly stay with Sarah and who benefit from the welcoming, family environment she offers.

Sammy, who has been staying on a more long-term basis, said: “Since living at Sarah’s house, it’s always been like a home to me. Sarah is the most incredible Shared Lives carer, she always does a perfect job, looking after people for however long they’re with her.

“I am always encouraged to be independent. I often cook and bake for the household. The relationship we all have with Sarah is really special – we even made her a cake for Mother’s Day!”

In addition to Shared Lives, Age UK Oxfordshire will also be supported to expand their Homeshare programme with funding from the ARF.

The pioneering housing project gives different generations the support they need to help each other. It pairs up older people who may be looking for some additional help or simply some company, with a person prepared to offer that help alongside an affordable place to stay.

Marian Pocock, Homeshare Oxfordshire’s Service Manager, said: “We are delighted to receive this funding from the ARF. It will give us the much-needed additional resource to be able to expand our Homeshare service across the county, bringing support and peace of mind to older people on the one hand, and a welcoming home to people seeking affordable accommodation on the other.”

As a service of Age UK Oxfordshire, Homeshare Oxfordshire is well placed to link participants into other services that the charity offers, such as advice and information, exercise classes and bereavement support groups.

Joan Williams is 92 years old and is a current householder with Homeshare Oxfordshire. Joan said: “Aušra coming to live with me has worked out very well. We just get on so well. She’s busy and I’m busy so we have our own lives and are not together a lot of the time, but we might watch something interesting on TV together, talk about the day, and we make each other laugh. We tease each other. Actually, I consider her my niece!

“It's very helpful to have help in the kitchen too and help with things like putting out the bins. My main problem is balance and it’s nice to know that someone else is around, and especially just to know there is someone in the house at night. As we both use WhatsApp, if Aušra’s in town I can ask her to get something – things like that are really helpful.”


The Accelerating Reform Fund (ARF)

The ARF is released in two rounds of funding, with another tranche due to be received in September 2024.

Oxfordshire County Council led on the consortium of local authorities included in the Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West integrated care system and secured an initial £469,841 for the region.

From this combined pot, approximately £150,000 will fund the development of programmes in Oxfordshire that build on the council’s Oxfordshire Way vision to support people to live well and independently within their own communities.

Further funding has been identified for work to better support unpaid carers, as well as towards self-help and prevention activities, supporting people to live well without the need to call on more formal services.

Councillor Tim Bearder, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care, said: “Oxfordshire County Council coordinated the bid that has attracted significant funding to the south-east, enabling local authorities to add capacity to innovative social care programmes in the region.

“While any sort of funding is of course welcomed, it is important to emphasise that this is one-off funding for the year. With an ageing population with more complex care and support needs, it is crucial that central government refocuses its attention on social care reform, giving local authorities the tools to properly plan to support residents well into the future.

"On the steps on Downing Street in 2019 we were promised reform that would 'fix social care once and for all'. Five years on and three prime ministers later and we are still operating with sporadic funding through small pots of money hypothecated for centrally determined initiatives.

“This isn't fixing social care or empowering the teams that have an intimate understand of what works best in their community.

“I’m proud that here in Oxfordshire we are still creating innovative projects, managing our money to ensure good outcomes for residents. However, this is not sustainable long-term.”

Click Sign up to hear from us and receive the latest news and updates in our fortnightly newsletter, Your Oxfordshire.