Its an ideal time for Liverpool City Council to join the Social Care Innovation Network!

By Martin Farran Director of Adult Services and Health – Liverpool City Council


I was delighted to join the Glimpses of the Future session at the Social Care Future gathering in November. Along with others from places working to dramatically change how they work and relate to citizens and communities, I shared my own experience.

Like others, I want to see the great innovations that have been emerging over recent years move from the margins to the mainstream. Liverpool City Council has been invited to join a new Social Care Innovation Network. This is an initiative that builds on the Social Care Future event, and other work by SCIE and TLAP on innovation over the last two years.

We like to feel we have a lot of history on innovative models of care – now is the time to find out what others are doing, share the learning from our experience and build from this . In this blog I want to share one example of the role the voluntary and community sector and social enterprise has long played in Liverpool and its role in our future.

Liverpool born and bred social enterprise PSS is currently celebrating 100 years since it was founded by Eleanor Rathbone back in 1919. Responsible for helping start up a whole host of recognisable names – from Age Concern and Legal Aid through to the Citizens Advice Bureau, Riverside and Relate – PSS has certainly played its part in changing the face of social care for the better, particularly in Liverpool. Its nimble responses to the ever-changing needs of society, its careful response to economic changes and having the bravery to innovate have helped to keep PSS on the map, and although it is celebrating its centenary this year, its stream of new ideas have not dried out. Today, PSS runs over 20 different health and social care services up and down the country – all of which have been carefully designed to put the person using them at the very core: giving them as much choice in how they’re supported as possible.

Leading the way in adult social care

Possibly one of the organisation’s most impactful innovations first happened forty years ago in 1978, when the government announced it was to close a whole host of institutions – a very positive development, but one leaving many people in Liverpool with nowhere to live or be supported. An organisation that has always had its ear to the ground and a mission to make sure everyone has the chance to change their lives for the better, PSS heard about this and wanted to put a service in place to make sure these people had somewhere safe they could call home. They introduced what was originally known in the 70s as ‘Adopt a Granny’, and more formally ‘Adult Placement’ and now is known nationally as “Shared Lives”. This was a service where ordinary, caring people across Liverpool could volunteer to take in an older person who needed somewhere to live. They would then support that person with whatever their needs were in their own home, with basic love and care, and make them part of their family. This not only gave those people hope of a better life, but brought them back into society.

From these humble beginnings, word spread about this unique form of care – and the service began to grow into what it is today. Adult Placement evolved into what’s now known as Shared Lives – one of the fastest growing forms of adult social care in the UK. 

Sharing life together

Smiling elderly man sitting in his cottage garden UK

PSS now operates Shared Lives in various parts of the UK – including the North West – and the Isle of Man, providing support to people from all walks of life with varying levels of need; people with learning disabilities,disabled people, people with mental health problems through to new mums struggling with the pressures of new parenthood. While essentially the same model it is now quite different from how the scheme started, people who use the service live with trained, specially-recruited Shared Lives carers, who are self-employed and paid to support the people living in their home. The Shared Lives carer welcomes the person they’re supporting into their family life – and support them to live their lives as they want to.

A match made in heaven

The people who use the service are matched up with a carer based on their likes and dislikes, their needs and what type of person they are. The aim is to find two people who will get on well together, with the relationship becoming more like friends or family than carer and service-user. PSS prides itself on offering as much choice and involvement to the people who uses its services as possible, and Shared Lives is no different to this: it’s the person’s choice who they stay with. The aim of the service is to help the people using it to find independence, build new skills and live their lives how they want to, while being supported as much or as little as they want or need. To help make sure the standard of care is high, the team at PSS maintains an ongoing relationship with the carer, supporting them to provide the best possible quality of support possible.

Flexible care

The great thing about the Shared Lives model is that it provides truly personal care and support, but it’s also cost-effective and can be adapted to suit a whole range of circumstances. It can be used on a short-term or a long-term basis: whatever suits the person being supported, and can offer short breaks to full-time carers who may need a rest.

But in whatever shape its delivered, Shared Lives has a fantastic reputation across the board and inspires positive change in the people it supports.

For more information about the PSS Shared Lives scheme, visit

Growing innovative models of care

PSS is a small provider compared to the scale of the challenges we face in Liverpool, and nationally. We need more organisations like it. This is why I am hoping that the Innovation Network helps build a movement that is committed to growing organisations like PSS. I am sure you would join me in celebrating PSS’s Centenary and over 40 years of Shared Lives as both a great achievement and something truly inspiring – demonstrating what the sector can achieve, working together to deliver fantastic outcomes.





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