Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care at the Care Quality Commission.

Last week I was invited to speak at two very special events.

Back to school

The first was a surprise invitation to go back to my old school as the Guest Speaker at their Presentation Evening. A special date in any school’s calendar.

I was very pleased to be asked and on the day the letter came I bounced around with a big smile on my face — well, until my lovely husband said:

“Just remember, they’ll have no idea who you are or why you’ve been asked to do this and they’ll just expect you to be boring.”

A bit harsh maybe but it did amuse the audience when I told them.

I was surprisingly nervous on the evening — I’d been invited to make an “aspirational speech” but how to do that to a group of teenagers without falling into the boring trap? My solution was a mixture of personal anecdotes, tales of teacher’s bad behaviour in the 1970s, reaching for the sympathy vote with my footballing woes (this was before Sunderland’s derby day victory) and a few top tips for success. Fortunately I had a forgiving audience who laughed in the right places and were very kind afterwards.

So what were my top tips?

Work hard; expect the unexpected and be adaptable; persevere for things you believe in; make time for family and friends; and be proud of your achievements. Oh, and don’t be too boring!

Shared Lives

The second event was a Parliamentary reception for Shared Lives. I am very happy to give my support to a model of service that is truly person-centred and can achieve such great outcomes. See what we said in last week’s State of Care report:

I’ve always had a soft spot for Shared Lives since my time as Chief Executive of the Social Care Institute for Excellence when I visited the scheme in Newham and was so impressed by what they were achieving. The Shared Lives conference was one of my highlights last year — especially the dancing at the ceilidh. So another opportunity to meet staff, carers and the people they support was not to be missed.

It was a lovely afternoon. There was cross-party support with Conservative MP, Nick Hurd, Labour Party Shadow Minister for Mental Health Luciana Berger and Liberal Democrat Councillor Richard Kemp — all spoke knowledgeably and warmly about Shared Lives and the positive benefits of their work.

The reception marked the launch of “A Shared Life is a Healthy Life”. The report illustrates the benefits that the Shared Lives model of care delivers to the health of people who use Shared Lives and the wider health and care sector. This was further demonstrated in the film featuring Shared Lives carers Pauline and Joe and the people they support Robert and Karen. Please take a few minutes to watch.

Tips for success

It would be great if Shared Lives could develop further so when I was preparing this blog I wondered if my top tips for success from Tuesday were relevant.

Work hard — it’s quite clear that Shared Lives carers certainly do that. Our report into Sunderland Shared Lives:

“Carers were proactive in developing people’s skills and independence and encouraging people to learn new things, try new experiences and maintain their individuality and independence.”

Expect the unexpected and be adaptable — opening up your home to others is likely to bring all sorts of surprises and it is a key aspect of the scheme that they are very responsive. In Portsmouth one person said:

“I have my own space and go to football when I want.”

Persevere for things you believe in — the representative organisation Shared Lives Plus is tireless in promoting the model and its focus on personalisation. As I did on Wednesday, I would like to make a special mention of Chief Executive Alex Fox, who is a very effective campaigner.

Make time for family and friends — one of the special features of Shared Lives is that the people they support become part of the family. In Merton, one carer said:

“I do everything to make them feel part of the family and encourage them to join in with us in activities such as meal times.”

Be proud of your achievements — and at Shared Lives there’s lots to be proud of as two of their ambassadors told us about on Wednesday, including holidays and education.

Don’t be too boring — no chance! With a conference Ceilidh and Dipan’s beautiful impromptu singing to end the reception, boring is the last thing you’d associate with Shared Lives.

Good luck

So the tale of two speeches ends with one common message to achieve success. Good luck to everyone at Shared Lives and all the leavers, pupils and staff of Longfield School.

Originally published at

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