READING COUNCIL will be celebrating the inspiring lives of its Shared Lives carers during Shared Lives Week 2018 next week (15 – 24 June).
The Shared Lives Scheme provides support to vulnerable young people and adults within an approved carer’s own family home. It is like a fostering scheme – but for adults.
An older person who may no longer be able to live in their own home independently or an adult who has learning disabilities or is recovering from mental health issues, 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.
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.
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 a weekly allowance. The person they care for pays rent and other expenses from their benefits. Carers can continue to work. Carers are offered training and support.
One person whose life has been completely transformed by Shared Lives is Ben, who has lived with his carer Caroline and her family for the last 3 years.
Ben, in his early 30s, who has mild learning difficulties, said: “Before I moved in with Caroline my life was fairly miserable. Things are very different for me now. Caroline welcomed me into her family and encouraged me to find things to do. Now I volunteer three days a week and at my local church on Sundays, and I go to college two days a week. My life is so much better now. I love being part of a family and I love my life.”
Caroline, who has been a Shared Lives carer for several years, said: “I originally got myself approved as a respite carer so I could give my mum and dad a break (they are also Shared Lives Carers), but took on more after my son was born. After one lady had stayed with us for several weeks it occurred to me that we could offer Shared Lives full time – that’s when Ben came into our lives! Being a Shared Lives Carer fits nicely around my parenting responsibilities and it is such good experience for my 6 year old. Being a carer is extremely fulfilling – I can’t imagine my life without caring!”
The scheme provides a mixture of placements, which spans across 40 carers in 26 families supporting a total of 41 people using the service. The Shared Lives team are keen to recruit more carers. To find out more, call 0118 9373700 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Cllr Tony Jones, Reading’s Lead Member for Adult Social Care, said: “The Shared Lives scheme makes such a huge difference to the lives of so many people. Caroline and Ben’s story is a fantastic example of where a young man’s life has been transformed and enriched by becoming 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.”
Full case studies available below:
Before I moved in with Caroline my life was fairly miserable. I was in a shared house, but I didn’t get along with the other guys, I didn’t have many friends and didn’t have much to do – so I spent most of my time sleeping.
Things are very different for me now. Caroline welcomed me into her family and encouraged me to find things to do. Now I volunteer at the British Heart Foundation (BHF) warehouse three days a week and at my local church on Sundays, and I go to college two days a week for Maths and English.
I also do supported activities and holidays with The Ark Trust and have just been away with them to my first music festival. Our group went as volunteers so it was free. I love music and it was very exciting to see live bands.
My life is so much better now. I love being part of a family and I love my life.
My parents always fostered , but then graduated to become Shared Lives Carers when their long-term foster kids transitioned to adult services – so caring is in my blood.
I originally got myself approved as a respite carer so I could give my mum and dad a break, but took on more after my son was born. After one lady had stayed with us for several weeks it occurred to me that we could offer Shared Lives full time – that’s when Ben came into our lives!
I let him stick to his own routine for the first few weeks to let him settle in, but then got more proactive. I encouraged him to take more care of himself, join in with family stuff then supported him to get involved in other activities. It took a little time but the change in him now is incredible – he’s way more confident and so full of life. They love him at church and at BHF and he really takes advantage of every opportunity. To be quite honest he has a better social life than I do! Of course, we have our moments but we work through them just like any family and they never last long!
Being a Shared Lives Carer fits nicely around my parenting responsibilities. And it is such good experience for my 6 year old. Having people with all sorts of different abilities in our lives has made him more accepting of others and he is developing into a very well-rounded child. He adores Ben.
Being a carer is extremely fulfilling – I can’t imagine my life without caring!
Michael Spencer: Reading Shared Lives Team
The difference in Ben since he went to live with Caroline is just amazing. And, with Caroline’s support and encouragement he is continuing to grow and make the most of the many opportunities opening up for him. It’s such a pleasure to see. This is an excellent example of what Shared Lives is about.