United Kingdom and Ireland

Looking for a homeshare programme in the UK?

There are many homeshare programmes scattered across the country.  Homeshare UK, run under the auspices of Shared Lives Plus, is the national network and maintains an up-to-date list of programmes.  Find out more from their new website, launched in autumn 2016.

Homeshare in the UK is benefitting from a £2 million grant from the Lloyds Bank Foundation and Big Lottery Fund – read more here.

Who benefits from the programmes?

Homeshare in the UK was originally set up to support older people who wanted to remain independent in their own homes.  Homeshare programmes are offered by a range of different organisations – most of which are non-profit but all have to make a charge for their services.

  • Householders are typically in their 80s, though the ages range from 70 to well over 90.
  • Most are women and most live alone, though some have a family member living with them.
  • Some of these older people have other helpers or carers, paid or informal, and for some, homesharing is part of a package of support.

Homesharers generally have to be 23+ years old and the average age is 27. A high proportion of UK homesharers are from Australia, New Zealand, Eastern Europe and other countries and are visiting the UK to broaden their experience. Some are mature students but many are working. For them, homesharing offers low-cost accommodation in expensive cities like London.

What does the exchange involve?

Householders provide free or low cost accommodation to their homesharer in exchange for ten hours of help each week.  Both parties pay a small fee to their Homeshare programme to support the costs of administering the service.

The help offered to the householder is tailored to his or her needs.

  • Most householders need help with domestic tasks like gardening, shopping, cooking, or cleaning.
  • Increasingly older people like to use computers for communication to far-flung family, but need technical support to get online.
  • Many need companionship.
  • For significant numbers, the real benefit of homesharing is the security of having someone in the house at night.

The homesharer pursues his or her day-time occupation but has to sleep at home six nights in seven, with one weekend off a month. They also commit themselves to staying for at least six months. Some homeshare matches last considerably longer than the minimum however.

How do the programmes operate?

The programmes are run by paid co-ordinators who are responsible for:

  • finding and screening potential householders and homesharers
  • matching clients to a suitable homesharer
  • supporting and training the homesharers
  • liaising with social services who sometimes purchase this service
  • troubleshooting

Who pays?

Both householders and homesharers are required to pay a small monthly fee to the homeshare programme.  Each programme has a different scale of charges.  Please contact the individual programme to request information on fees.

In cases where the householder benefits from the Single Person Discount from their Council Tax, this may be lost when a homesharer moves in.  It is common for the homesharer to pay this additional charge, along with a share of utilities and household bills.

Does it work?

There is evidence to show that having a homesharer affords surprising benefits. Having a homesharer can produce savings and efficiencies:

  • reduced risks of falls; better health and well-being for older people;
  • reduced pressure on housing provision;
  • increased affordability of higher education;
  • easier recruitment to lower paid public service jobs;

Homeshare is typically welcomed by families who may not live near their elderly relatives. The homesharer provides support and companionship on a regular and daily basis, something relatives are not able to do.

Homesharing is most successful in London where there are both a high number of older people living alone with spare bedrooms and many younger people who struggle to pay rent in the capital. Homesharing is making a significant contribution to the support needs of many older people, some of them very vulnerable. Homeshare has been shown to work even for very dependent older people, some with dementia. Crucially, homesharing has enriched the lives of householders and homesharers alike.

Has any research been done on the programmes?

Homeshare programmes have been evaluated for impact on health and well-being.  For example, Patricia Thornton wrote The Homeshare project: report to the Community Care Trust of a study carried out by the Social Policy Research Unit, University of York, October 1995.  There is scope for more evaluation, and the World Homeshare Congresses provide guidance about how best to measure the benefits of homeshare.

For shorter term homeshare matches

A programme called Room for Tea has been established specifically to meet the needs of householders/hosts and homesharers who want shorter stays with no help requirement in exchange for accommodation.  A low rent is charged.  Room for Tea is a sociable housing idea. They are a new kind of home-sharing network which connects guests in need of short-term, affordable housing, with hosts who have a spare room in their homes.  Further information can be found on www.roomfortea.com 

Can a homesharer provide personal care?

Homesharers are not able to provide personal care, but if a householder does require assistance with bathing, toileting, dressing etc., a homecare provider should be sought.  It is perfectly feasible for a householder to receive help from both a homecarer AND a homesharer.