Wednesday 3 November 2010

Never Too Old to Belong

In my blog entry yesterday, I talked about the UK innovative housing initiative for vulnerable people called "NAAPS". Well, that organization was in the news again today. Linda Jackson writing for the Guardian, tells the stories of adults with development disabilities who are being moved from residential settings into family homes for the first time. For Stephen Gilbert and Nigel Webb, outings with a family to vintage car rallies, community swimming pools or a cinema are completely novel.

These two gentlemen are now part of the family in the home of Brian and Val Johns in Redruth, Cornwall. They have just begun swimming lessons in preparation for a family holiday to Majorca. The Johns are paid a weekly amount of money for the support that they offer Gilbert and Webb. But the benefits of living in an atmosphere of love and belonging far outweigh the payments made to the Johns (which are similar to those paid to foster parents).

Shared Lives, an agency of NAAPS was even able to place a middle aged rural woman with development disabilities with a farming family in Devon. What makes that story so remarkable, is that the woman refused to be placed without her beloved flock of geese. Now, everyone (including the geese) are happy on one Devon farm.

According to Alex Fox, CEO of NAAPS, the scheme is not widely used because it is poorly understood. Currently, there are just 10,000 Shared Lives carers in the UK. Hopefully, this will change in the future as more people discover the health and wellbeing benefits of living together and caring for one another.

Let's learn from NAAPS and Shared Lives. These programs embody the values that form the template for a caring society AND they save money. It is estimated that developing a Shared Lives project to support 85 people would cost 620,000 pounds, but save 13 million pounds in the long run.

Currently in Canada, residential housing placements (group homes) that receive public funding are oversubscribed with long waiting lists. The cost of private, for profit group homes is prohibitive for anyone, save those with large insurance settlements resulting from catastrophic accidents. Parents who are caring for their son or daughter with a disability for far too long are desperate for choices.

For one possible answer, let's look at NAAPS.

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