For the February 2022 magazine I have spoken to two wonderful ladies who explain about Leeds Homeshare, what it is and the wide range of people from all walks of life that it is helping across Yorkshire.
Homeshare UK created over 1,000 matches across the UK last year, improving the day-to-day lives of many.
Anne-Marie Bagnall from Leeds Beckett University is on the Board of Directors for Leeds Homeshare and was a huge part of getting the scheme off the ground. Emma Harris from Leeds City Council who is running the day-to-day activities.
Here is an abridged version of our conversations from 16th February 2022. See some highlight clips above.
Deby: What is your connection to Leeds the greatest city in the world?
Anne-Marie: I live and work in Leeds, have done since 2002. I saw a job that I liked the look of in Leeds at Leeds Beckett University and have been here ever since.
Deby: Can you tell me about your involvement with Leeds Homeshare?
Anne-Marie: I got involved with Leeds Homeshare, when we put an application into the National Lottery Community Fund, they were funding ten pilot schemes. Homeshare is quite a well-established model across the world of intergenerational home sharing. Older people sharing with younger people, but we didn’t have one in Leeds. The bid was led by Martin Ewing from Shared Lives, it was always his ambition to up Homeshare in Leeds as well. Homeshare is about offering a bit of help to people with a spare room and a few support needs, but not personal care needs. It provides affordable accommodation to younger people who can offer a bit of support in return. It’s similar to Shared Lives, but more about transactional accommodation.
I became involved because of the work Leeds Beckett had already done scoping the Shared Lives scheme and researching whether there would be an appetite in Leeds for Homeshare. Ten pilot schemes across the UK received funding, we were the only one that had a local evaluation built in. Meaning that we were able to be flexible and responsive to the way things were going. Homeshare took a while to get up and running. There was a bit of suspicion about what it was, so we started promoting more about the safeguarding and checks that were in place. Sharers and Homesharers would be spending a lot of time together, so they’ve got to feel comfortable. It really helps to have shared interests too.
Homeshare offers a bit of help to people with a spare room and a few support needs
Deby: What do you think are the main positives for a Sharer to take part?
Anne-Marie: The ‘selling point’ of Homeshare UK is that it’s affordable accommodation. But what we found in our evaluation, and it’s echoed in evaluations of successful home shares throughout the world, is that what people really value is the companionship and being part of a normal household or a family environment.
Deby: Can it help if someone’s moving to the area for a new job?
Anne-Marie: Yes, definitely Sharers can get to know the location really well because the householder has got that local knowledge and local networks. So, they can they tell you where are good places to go. Sharers are also getting introduced to the Homesharers’ neighbours as well as their family and friends. They really settle in quickly.
Deby: Homeshare is not just the elderly?
Anne-Marie: Yeah, that’s right, people might have chronic conditions that mean they need a little bit of help. Our research found that the householders also valued the companionship more than the support. Householders didn’t see themselves as in need of support. They were more wanting to support the younger person. And helping them settle into communities.
“It’s great to have someone check on me without being in each other’s pockets”
Deby: Emma can you tell me a little bit about your involvement with Homeshare?
Emma: I’ve been working for Homeshare for two and a half years. It’s a unique scheme which creates mutually beneficial living arrangements for people who are looking for help in their home with everyday tasks, and people who are able to provide the help to that person. Ultimately, we match people to live together on the premise that somebody is looking for support in their home, and the other person, who can provide that support, is looking for affordable living. The scheme facilitates the matches across Leeds, and, also more broadly into West Yorkshire and occasionally South Yorkshire. The scheme is well established in London. As you can imagine, living costs are expensive there.
Deby: Is it a bit like you’re renting out a room, but that person is living with you is also helping you around the home?
Emma: In a sense, but it’s not a rental agreement. It’s an informal living arrangement. Only a small contribution towards bills, gas, electricity, etc. exchanges hands between the two parties. The Sharer also pays an affordable contribution to our scheme towards our running costs. It’s an informal arrangement where ideally everybody feels that they’re benefiting, that might be practical help around the home or companionship, in a really nice, homely environment.
Deby: Who can benefit from Homeshare?
Emma: Homeshare is for a wide range of people. Originally when it was set up, it had a focus of intergenerational living. The concept was around older people who were looking for help and support living with younger people who would move in to provide the support. That still is very much a large part of the model, but it has broadened. Sometimes it might be somebody younger, that’s looking for company at home that wants to take part in the scheme, or it might be somebody that has a disability, or a health condition, or even a learning disability, anybody that’s looking for that extra support in their home can inquire about taking part in the scheme.
The kind of help that people might be looking for is a practical nature. It could be help with cooking or maybe to have somebody to share a meal with or it could be help with light cleaning and housework. We had somebody who wanted help to get to the local chemist to collect her prescriptions, once a fortnight, she struggled to do that herself. Another Homesharer had just moved into a new property and were finding it difficult to put the bins out because of the way the property had been designed with an awkward path. It also provides an opportunity for companionship to people who have experienced bereavement and miss having someone at home. Or a stepping stone for a divorcee, while they get back on their feet and decide what to do.
Some people like a noisy, busy home, others prefer it very quiet
Deby: Is it a good opportunity for students?
Emma: Students often apply to the scheme looking for affordable accommodation, that might be students from overseas, even our students studying locally. We’ve had quite a few matches with students. As long as people can commit to a minimum of six months. Interestingly, during the pandemic, we’ve had a wide range of people expressing an interest in the scheme. I’ve had people that have been relocating to be closer to family. Plus, younger people in their 30s 40s and 50s, that are interested in being Homesharers for companionship and to give support to the other person. Others that are looking to save money and get onto the property ladder or go travelling. We even have people come forward to us who are retired, living alone and want to be a Homesharer, maybe feeling isolated and wanting the company of living with someone. Sometimes people want to work on their English skills, Homeshare provides a great opportunity to live with somebody who’s fluent. Similarly, our householders are from a wide variety of situations.
Deby: Is there a series of pre-share checks?
Emma: We want to make sure that our Homeshare match is safe for everybody taking part. There is an anxiety for many at the thought of having what’s viewed as a stranger moving into your home. We do very rigorous checks from the offset, there’s the DBS, which is the police background checks, this checks people’s criminal history. We also do our own reference checks from two or three references. It’s an extensive interview and assessment process of applicants for the scheme, which is part of getting to know them as well. We do financial checks to make sure it’s affordable for them. We ask about Covid vaccination status and what to do if either parties need to isolate. We look at safety from all elements really, to make sure that everybody feels comfortable.
Many people who apply for the scheme are used to having people in their home already, so might have had grandchildren living with them, or other relatives, we even have somebody who used to put up local actors in their home. To them, it doesn’t feel such a big leap having a Sharer move in.
a minimum six month commitment from both parties
But for others who have always lived on their own or never had other people living with them, understandably, it can be a bit of a step to having a Sharer move in. And that’s why we really take a long time with our careful matching process. That’s about getting to know the Homesharer, their needs and their interests and their backgrounds and getting to know the potential Sharer in the same way. Trying to match people’s interests.
We create profiles of both parties looking for help to get the best match. We try and match personalities as well. Some people like a noisy, busy home, others prefer it very quiet. We strive to get all those elements right. Even the level of tidiness, people have no strong preferences about how tidy and clean they like the house to be. Before the Sharer moves in they will meet a few times and see if they like each other, and can vision living together before they take that next step.
Deby: Can you give me an example of a great match that you’ve set up?
Emma: A good example is one we had recently, and that was in North Yorkshire because we do extend further as well. And it was a lovely special match. A lady had been bereaved a few years previously, and she had a few low-level health conditions. Her family were supportive but she didn’t want to call on them to always come round to the house to help with the jobs that cropped up, like changing the light bulbs or putting new batteries in the smoke alarm, etc. So, she really thought that she would be up for giving Homesharing a try. She lived in a small village. We weren’t too sure how easy it would be to find her match. But we did find somebody for her and quite quickly, which was a young person who worked in catering, she’d previously been living in a caravan, which is great in the summer… not so great in the winter.
The Sharer worked part time so was able to help the householder it was just really lovely. The householder was looking for help with things like trips out and she was unable to drive so occasionally trips to local facilities, and they shared meals together occasionally. It was a great match. It also provided the householder peace of mind with somebody in the home overnight.
“Not many people seem to know about Homeshare but it’s a good option when you get a compatible Sharer especially if you have a similar outlook”