READING COUNCIL’S Shared Lives team is hosting two carer recruitment events in March and early April for residents to find out more about the benefits of the scheme.
Residents are invited to information sessions, which will include a presentation about Shared Lives, at the Council offices on:
· Wednesday 20th March from 5.30pm to 7pm in the Council Chamber
· Monday 1st April from 5.30pm to 7.30pm in the Mayor’s Parlour
The Shared Lives Scheme provides support to vulnerable adults within an approved carer’s own family home. It is like fostering– but for adults.
A person who needs support is matched with a carer who is willing and able to offer the practical and emotional support they need to lead a fulfilling life. The support is flexible and the person is encouraged to live as independently as possible.
Reading has been supporting people with a learning disability for nearly 30 years, but the team is now looking to extend the scheme and recruit more local carers for older people.
There are options for full-time carers (where the person lives with the carer and is included as a member of the family), respite carers (who give full-time carers a break) and day carers, who support the person to take part in regular activities.
Shared Lives, for example, can offer care to older people leaving hospital and needing a temporary place to stay while they recover before resuming their normal lives in their own homes or it can enable older people who need some extra help to remain living independently in a family home and community as an alternative to residential care.
People are included as part of carer’s families and are involved in day to day and special family activities, with those receiving full time care often remaining as part of the same family for a number of years.
Shared Lives Carers receive an allowance. The person they care for pays rent and other expenses. Carers can continue to work and are offered training and support at every stage from the Shared Lives team.
Carers have said Shared Lives is a life-enriching experience for them and immensely rewarding through the ability to make a difference to people’s lives. One person who is a keen champion of Shared Lives is Lorna, who was one of the very first people to join the Shared Lives Scheme at Reading when it launched in the early 1990s. She has been caring for Lizzy, who has moderate learning difficulties, since she joined the scheme. Lorna has also offered respite and day care over the years and now cares full time for Lizzy and two other ladies, as well as offering additional respite.
Lorna said: “I really do have the best job in the world! When you help someone to gradually gain their independence – such as buying a drink in a café for the first time, putting on some washing or using their own door key – and you see how much they grow in confidence in those little achievements – which is life changing for them – that is worth a million dollars in my book!”
Shared Lives can be a life-enriching experience for carers and is immensely rewarding through the ability to make a difference to people’s lives. Many people using the scheme report feeling settled, valued and like they belong for the first time in their lives.
Cllr Tony Jones, Reading’s Lead Member for Adult Social Care, said: “We urgently need more local carers in Reading and we are especially hoping to recruit carers for older people. We are now asking people ‘Do you have a room to spare and time to care?’
“The Shared Lives scheme makes such a huge difference to the lives of so many people. Lorna’s story is a fantastic example of where a carer has helped transform and enriched the lives of three people by enabling them to become part of a welcoming and supportive family. I encourage people who would like to find out more about how to become a Shared Lives carer to get in touch. We are hosting two events on 20th March and 1st April at the council offices, so come along to have a chat and find out what Shared Lives is all about.”
Reading’s Shared Lives scheme currently provides a mixture of placements, which spans across 36 carers in 26 families supporting a total of 43 people using the service.
People can register their attendance at the Shared Lives Events at:
For information on Shared Lives nationally, visit https://sharedlivesplus.org.uk
Full case studies available below:
Lorna was one of the very first people to join the Shared Lives Scheme when it launched in the early 1990s. She has been caring for Lizzy, who has moderate learning difficulties, since she joined the scheme – so Lizzy really has become part of the family! Lorna has also offered respite and day care over the years and now cares full time for Lizzy and two other ladies, as well as offering additional respite to others.
Lorna first heard about Shared Lives from Lizzy’s mother. She said: “Lizzy wanted to leave home and gain some independence. I was looking for a lodger at the time and friends with Lizzy’s family, so it seemed like a perfect solution. Lizzy’s mum was aware of the Shared Lives Scheme and said she’d prefer it if we joined. I’m so glad I did because I don’t think it would have worked without their support.
“Lizzy goes to a day care centre during the week and by being part of Shared Lives I was able to work flexibly part time and make sure I was always there for her when she got home in the afternoon.”
Lorna says the best thing about being a Shared Lives Carer is how rewarding it can be: “You act as a facilitator. When someone first comes to you, they might not have basic life skills most people take for granted. When you help someone to gradually gain their independence – such as buying a drink in a café for the first time, putting on some washing or using their own door key – and you see how much they grow in confidence in those little achievements – which is life changing for them – that is worth a million dollars in my book!”
Lorna has also offered respite and day care over the years and now cares full time for Lizzy and two other ladies, as well as offering still offering respite care. They do lots of activities together, including going to slimming world – “Lizzy has wanted to lose weight for ages and we enjoy going together.” They walk Lizzy’s dog Barney and enjoy cooking together. Lorna also owns a caravan on the coast where she, Lizzy, and the others regularly go for breaks.
Lorna said the other benefit of Shared Lives is the consistency it offers people. “When they become part of your family you get to know them so well. Some of the ladies I care for will never say if they are upset about something or feeling ill. I know the signs to look for and can often get them to open up. I’m not just a carer, I’m a trusted friend.”
Lorna sums up her role perfectly: “I really do have the best job in the world!”