Shared Lives, a carer’s view by Phil Mayne

I attended the Shared Lives conference in London for the first time last week and on arrival noted a different atmosphere than I had experienced at a typical conference. I have previously been invited to various health & social care conferences, which quite frankly have a very corporate feel within minutes of arriving. I appreciate that not all conferences in the health/social care industry involve carers or even for that matter some of the keynote speakers say anything relating to them, but I do despair sometimes that carers never even get a mention at all.

This conference did seem at first glance a little different and in the first few hours it became noticeable that the carer numbers attending were certainly greater than in any other conference I had attended.

Cannot overestimateIt is very difficult both for pragmatic and logistical reasons for carers to attend any conference. My wife and I experience this on a regular basis. I do not believe some of the professionals attending similar conferences truly understand the importance that carers place on having even the briefest opportunity to converse with fellow carers. Many I speak with inform me we cannot overestimate the value they place on having the rare opportunity of sharing their experiences with their colleagues.

I have to admit previously, as a professional attending conferences I have been guilty of this myself. Only now in my role as a carer do I appreciate how vitally important it is to have the chance to be able to share and listen to my colleagues. The wealth of experience carers have to exchange with others is a resource that has not yet been tapped into by health & social care professionals.

I experienced an unprecedented wave of optimism at the Shared Lives conference, which had made a deliberate effort to put Carers at the forefront of all the discussions from workshops to MPs speaking at the event. In fact in my brief conversation with the Minister for Care, Norman Lamb MP I was so proud to hear him say that he would consider Shared Lives, as a possible alternative of care, if in the future his own Mum needed help. It was clear from the passion in his voice that he was sincere in his commitment to Shared Lives, which left me feeling very proud indeed as carer. We carers do sometimes feel forgotten about and frustratingly not even considered, as an alternative option of care by many Health / Social Care organisations. Listening to the Minister made me think that all is not lost and that finally we may be getting our message across.

Carers are saving Local Government & Health an average conservative estimate of £24,000 per year per person, for the individual we care for in our home. Not forgetting a further saving of circa £7,000 PA for every cared for person who has Mental Health needs. I really hope that this conference with its emphasis on carers is duplicated at other conferences up and down the country, as many similar conferences do seem to be hijacked by various lobbyists with their own agenda. It would seem that not all the conferences are highlighting the contribution carers make.

It would be difficult to name every individual I spoke with at the conference, but I can tell you after speaking with carers one could not help but feeling inspired. They spoke with a dignity and integrity that made hairs stand up on the back of my neck.

I must mention a few names. In particular Tim Southern, Andy Harvey, Nancy Plowes and of course the indefatigable Alex Fox, although I know they will not thank me for naming them individually. I want to highlight a skill that I believe many have lost, but one that I believe was a beacon of light that shone so brightly at the conference. It is an ability that all the above-named people possessed in abundance, that of being genuinely personable and approachable. I believe when a person attends a conference not knowing anyone, as happened to me at this conference, it is of paramount importance that the people in senior positions within the group take the time to engage with delegates.

I headed home on the train with a refreshing feeling that we carers are not just making up the numbers at conference, but are a valued and integral part of the Shared Lives family for the future.

Care to Share Magazine volume 1 issue 1


7 thoughts on “Shared Lives, a carer’s view by Phil Mayne

  1. Hi Phil,

    It sounds like this was a genuinely inspiring conference.

    It’s good to have this piece in Care To Share Magazine. Like you, I also think that carers’ voices are forgotten too often. Indeed, I’ve been guilty of neglecting carers’ needs myself at times over the years. Sometimes we just get too carried away doing ‘stuff’ to stop and think about the people directly and indirectly affected by our actions.

    I’m really glad you submitted this.



  2. Thank you for giving me the opportunity . We have a group of about 20 Shared Lives Carers who attend our Indepedent group meeting. Therefore I will be informing them of caretoshare.
    Once again thanks

    • That would be really kind of you Ian. Thankyou. In these early days Care To Share will stand or fall based upon how successful we are at spreading the word as much as anything else. The more people know about us the more articles we’ll have to publish and the more successful our discussions will be.

      So the more you can spread the word the better.

      Thankyou very much.



  3. Great stuff – I am always talking about the contribution my daughter and my wife – and even my in-laws make to my care. Importantly I also big up the support I get from paid carers too. I prefer to call paid carers ‘carers’ and my informal support by the name of who ever is giving me informal support. I too feel it is necessary to tell the Government (not local Government) just how much financial contribution carers make and yet Govnt volunteering and working policies do not lend support to people like you Phill and my Wife and Daughter. Personally I can see the importance of peer support whether you are a carer, a service user or a paid carer. Maybe paid carers and informal carers can learn and support each other too. But yes – great wee article Phill – I enjoyed reading it – it’s hard to remember – that Norman Lamb is the same guy who thought Neighbourhood Watch should deliver personal care to me and social care users like me. At least he saw the uttermost need to think about you guys in the big picture – and that is to be welcomed – problem is though Norman lamb’s party are not really holding the Govnt to account to make this happen.

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