Innovation Exchange

Shared Lives Fife


Key activities

Benefits and impacts


Further Information

Fife Council has a well-established and highly successful Shared Lives service. Having celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2017, it is one of the longest-established Shared Lives service in Scotland. Like most Shared Lives schemes, it has traditionally focused on offering support to adults with learning disabilities.  As demographic change and rising demand place pressures on traditional social care services, the Shared Lives Fife service has been adapting and innovating in order to accommodate changing user need in a flexible, personalised and cost-effective way.


Shared Lives is a relatively little-known model of social care, where an adult who needs care and support moves in with, or regularly visits an approved Shared Lives carer, and together they share family and community life. The support offered can take the form of day support, short breaks or long-term placement. Shared Lives is a model of care that takes a uniquely holistic approach, not only breaking down barriers between health and social care, physical health and mental wellbeing, but also combining the personal and professional; paid and unpaid.


Shared Lives carers are self-employed and are recruited, trained and approved by their Shared Lives scheme. Once approved, the scheme carefully matches someone who needs support with a Shared Lives carer and they spend time getting to know each other. The Shared Lives scheme provides the supervision, reviews and support to ensure everyone’s safety and is itself inspected by the Care Inspectorate under the Adult Placement regulations.


The Shared Lives Fife service now has over 90 Shared Lives carers, providing a mixture of long-term placements, day support and respite, and over 90 people using the service, the majority of whom are adults with learning disabilities.  The service seeks to promote and enable adults who need support to maximise their potential and lead their lives as adults as independently as possible, fully included in their own communities. With the implementation of the Carers (Scotland) Act, the service is diversifying in order to increase the number of older people and people with dementia that it can support, particularly through day support and short breaks.

Theme: Health and Social Care

The Shared Lives Fife scheme matches people in need of support with carefully-selected carers, who have been comprehensively assessed and trained. The service has been developed in a person-centred way and is tailored to meet the needs of the individual, while helping to maintain their independence and promote their physical, mental, and emotional well-being. The flexible nature of the service allows service users to be matched with carers who will help them pursue their own personal interests and skills.


The care provided is based in the Shared Lives carer’s own home, where the service user benefits from a home-from-home setting.  Planned activities and outings are a key component of the service, as is participation in the carer’s family and community life. The personalised and flexible nature of the service means that the Shared Lives carer can support service users to pursue their own interests and engage in their local community. Through Shared Lives Fife, people make friends and get involved in activities, clubs and volunteering, all of which strengthens their relationships and local communities. As one of the scheme’s Shared Lives carers put it: “Shared Lives means being able to give care and support to people, enabling them to be part of their community, and open their horizons”.

The outcomes for people using Shared Lives are often transformative; and indeed the Care Inspectorate found that the Shared Live Fife service generated “significant outcomes which were testament to the care and support delivered by carers and the staff team of Shared Lives Fife. Such outcomes included the securing of individual tenancies, employment and voluntary work opportunities and support to compile a life story for future publication”. For individuals, Shared Lives allows individuals to achieve goals that might otherwise not have been possible. As one service user in Fife put it:  'This is a fantastic service for me. It supports me to live independently socially, something I thought I would never do. It has built up my confidence and have supported me with new experiences”.


The Shared Lives model of care keeps people in their local communities, and the holistic approach provides what many people need to keep well, for longer. The daughter of a service user with dementia, who receives short breaks through the Shared Lives Fife service said that “Shared Lives allows us to continue to care for our mother at home despite her progressing dementia. She has really bonded with the Shared Lives Fife carers, where we know she is totally safe. This innovative care service is second to none and has our full admiration”.


At a time of reducing resources and increasing demand, the Shared Lives model offers choice, quality and personal support in a flexible, personalised and cost-effective way. Its strength in providing bespoke local arrangements also makes it suitable to support small numbers of clients with multiple and complex needs – clients that other care settings struggle to accommodate in a cost-effective manner.


The financial savings associated with Shared Lives are also significant. In 2013, Social Finance undertook research comparing care costs across four local authorities in the UK. They found that there were potential savings of £26,000 per person per year for someone with a learning disability in a long-term arrangement, and £8,000 per person per year for someone with mental ill health being supported in the community. These figures represent cashable savings, and do not include the additional efficiencies and benefits that accrue from the way in which Shared Lives improves outcomes for the people involved, and supports the prevention agenda.


Shared Lives services play a valuable preventative role in a range of ways, from preventing hospital admission, dependence, carer breakdown and dependence on high-cost services. It can also be critical in helping combat social isolation and loneliness, as illustrated by the case of Sandra, who was referred to Shared Lives Fife for day support in order to help her access her local community, reduce her social isolation, reduce her anxiety and benefit her mental health.

Sandra was matched with a carer, Carol, who began to provide support to Sandra for 2 x 4 hour sessions per week. Sandra and Carol have developed a very good relationship and Sandra has stated that the time she spends with Carol has made a huge difference to her life.   Her anxiety and social isolation have been reduced, and she now has the confidence to go out locally on her own.  As Sandra says: “The support from Shared Lives Fife means I can get out more and it makes me feel more independent. I feel I can talk to Carol about my worries and anything else”

Aspects that have been crucial to the successful development and diversification of Shared Lives Fife include:


  • Successful matching: A considerable amount of time is dedicated to getting to know Shared Lives carers and service users well, in order to ensure that the matching process is successful. The Care Inspectorate reported that “strength of this service lay in the way it matched those requiring support to the carers that they had on their register”.

  • Personal development: The scheme provides the necessary learning and development to enable its Shared Lives carers to support a variety of people to best effect. With the diversification of the service, the scheme has ensured that training is available to enable Shared Lives carers to support older people, including people with dementia. Shared Lives carers who have traditionally supported adults with Learning Disabilities are therefore supported to develop new skills.

  • Successful carer recruitment: The scheme has a successful track record in recruiting Shared Lives carers, with the majority of recruitment being the result of positive word of mouth on the part of Shared Lives carers. Recruitment has therefore been highly cost-effective and is testament to the positive and motivated nature of the scheme’s Shared Lives carers.

  • Peer support is crucial to the Shared Lives model of care in Fife. A regular Carer Consultation Group was established and is well-attended. The Speak UR Mind Group was also established to enable for users of the Shared Lives service, and is also well-supported and valued.

  • Co-production: Through enabling the service user to be involved in part of their care planning and encouraging them to be fully engaged with all aspects of their care, Shared Lives puts individual well-being at the centre of provision.

Contact details:

To find out more about this case study, please contact:


Hazell Ness

Temporary Team Manager

Self Directed Support Team

Shared Lives Fife

03451 555 555  Ext 443011 or 07850211929

Case study added to site: May 2019

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