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Homeshare: a sustainable approach for social prescribing

What is Homesharing all about?

Similar to social prescribing, homeshare fits across the wider health and social care banner, and akin to social prescribing, homeshare also emerged in the UK back in the 1980s. It began in the USA in 1972 and there are now international schemes offered in 16 countries.


Homeshare matches householders who want to live independently in their own home, usually older people or adults with support needs or disabilities, with homesharers. The homesharers are those looking for an affordable place to live in a home environment and are happy to provide an agreed level of practical help and companionship in return.


Over the past decade, homeshare in the UK has evolved and is becoming more widely used as part of the solution in health and social care. Easy to refer to, and cost effective for live-in support, homeshare is an accessible support route to help older people remain independent in their own home for longer.


Share and Care Homeshare is a social enterprise which launched 14 years ago, and has a reach across mainland UK.


How does homesharing work?

Homeshare matches individuals who need some help to live independently in their own home, with someone who has a housing need, usually a younger person, who is able to provide approximately 15 hours of support per week in exchange for accommodation. This is not personal care; instead it provides help around the house with everyday tasks such as cooking dinner, shopping for groceries, tidying the garden, and so on. Assistance with technology has been prominent during lockdown with sharers helping the householder keep in touch with family and loved ones via Zoom or FaceTime for instance.


Safeguarding is a key priority and homeshare schemes follow rigorous policies to ensure this. Careful matches between older people and younger people cover areas such as culture, language, personal preference, diet and interests. This helps ensure successful matches which often last on average of 15 months, many longer.


Although older people are the biggest user group of homeshare schemes, this approach is flexible enough to support a wider range of people and need - for example, families who have children or young adults with physical disabilities or learning difficulties such as autism, ADHD or Down’s Syndrome. In this instance, as well as help in the home, homesharers often accompany the children to activities, acting as a chaperone and providing respite to other family members.


What are the benefits of homesharing?

Homeshare is a highly rewarding experience all round. For older people with lower level support needs, it’s a preventative option which can help avoid lengthy hospital stays or indeed unnecessary placements in nursing or residential care, which enables older people to enjoy a fulfilling community-based living experience in their own home for as long as possible.


The loneliness and isolation that older people experience has soared since the outbreak of coronavirus and, in our experience, homeshare has a positive impact in this area for older people.


Younger people benefit from the wealth of life experience of an older person, while certainly the greatest impact is the positive change for the householder themselves driven by new companionship. Mental health and wellbeing improve though having someone to talk to, someone helping around the house, and the reassurance and added security of having another person sleeping in the property at night. All of this helps reduce anxiety and loneliness whilst increasing mental stimulation, confidence, and self-worth. There is also indication of a reduced risk of falls, and the homesharer can flag early alerts if the householder becomes ill.


Homeshare also helps tackle the widespread and growing issues around health and wellbeing cost-effectively. The Social Care Institute for Excellence’s (SCIE) homeshare evaluation report 2018 states there is less pressure on a wide range of other health and social care services including A&E, respite services, mental health services, patient transport services, and even reduces need for assistance with gardening and cleaning for example.



How does homesharing fit with social prescribing

Today, homeshare provision is a sustainable option for social prescribing, and enables social prescribers to offer tailored support to improve the health and well-being of vulnerable members of the community.


With the clear growth of social prescribing, particularly during the pandemic, effective collaboration and partnerships with homeshare schemes can support communities at scale, which, as the Winter months set in, is invaluable.


Social prescribers can tap into homeshare to support independent living for those within their communities, referring those who could benefit from the service quickly and easily, or even encourage the self-referral route. As a valuable community service, homeshare supports transformation, strengthening the future of social prescribing.


Caroline Cooke is director at social enterprise Share and Care Homeshare (CIC), which is the largest and most experienced provider in the UK and offers a bespoke nationwide service. Share and Care Homeshare is happy to receive referrals by phone or email or the via contact form on its website, and where requested is able to ensure the prescriber is kept informed. The first step is for Share and Care Homeshare to contact the social prescriber (or the client direct) for additional information and to assess suitability for homeshare; Share and Care will then provide a detailed Registration Form for completion to start the process.


Contact our friendly team for advice on how homeshare can help your social prescribing teams and information on pricing on 020 3865 3398, email info@shareandcare.co.uk, and visit www.shareandcare.co.uk

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