Participants in Hull’s Shared Lives scheme, where families care for an adult with a disability in their own home, have urged others to consider getting involved. Shared Lives is a chance for people to share their home with an adult who needs support and would otherwise be in residential care.
Those who become Shared Lives carers are carefully matched with the person they look after and receive full training and financial support. They also have access to the network of professionals behind Shared Lives, who provide practical help and advice at every stage of the process.
Katie has been a Shared Lives carer for a number of years, having originally started as a foster carer. She and her husband currently look after two young women, Sarah and Sarah, both of whom have learning difficulties. The family divide their time between their home in Hull and their caravan at a nearby seaside complex, which all three girls say is their favourite place to be.
Katie says: “My husband and I have been involved in Shared Lives for more than 12 years and it’s been a very good experience – we have other family members involved too. The best feeling is seeing how much someone can learn, how much progress they can make. Both girls go to college and have different levels of independence. Sarah has learned to catch a bus on her own and can now go and visit her mum on her own – she couldn’t do any of that when she arrived. I really enjoy all the girls’ company”.
“Spending time at the caravan is fantastic for the two of them because it’s a safe place for them to have some time on their own. Everyone knows them and they can practise all kinds of life skills.
“The level of support through the Shared Lives scheme is fantastic, because of course this is hard at times. But there’s always someone on the end of the phone, you’re never alone”.
Sarah says: “My favourite part of staying with Katie is coming to the caravan, it’s brilliant. I feel like the other girls are my sisters and we usually get on. When I first came to Katie’s, I didn’t get to see my mum very often but now I can go get the bus on my own I can see her whenever I want; I really like that”.
Carl, who has physical disabilities, came to Sally and Brian when he was just seven years old – 22 years ago. They progressed from fostering to the Shared Lives scheme.
Carl says: “I was seven when I first came to Sally and Brian, before then I’d been in a children’s home. I think of them like my parents and we do usual family stuff together; go out for meals, go to the pub. I have my own bedroom here and I like playing on my computer and listening to music”.
Sally says: “When I first saw Carl he was so small and skinny, I knew that if I took him in I’d be able to help him; do something for him. With us, he is just part of the family. Shared Lives means he has independence, he makes his own decisions, but he still lives with us, still has that family support. I’ve got so much out of doing it.
“Because of the support you get through Shared Lives, there’s always someone there for you. I’ve got stuck a few times and they’ve always been behind me. I wanted to take a child with special needs into our family because my own children had left home, I had three part-time jobs and I wanted to invest my time in giving quality of life to a child who needed it”.
Brian adds: “I think Carl has a standard of living and family life with us that he might have missed out on otherwise, he gets the opportunity to be very independent. He uses the computer and games console, he has loads of friends through Facebook, he goes out on his own in his electric wheelchair; we’ve seen him grow from a little lad who couldn’t do anything for himself into a young man with independence. It’s been great having the chance to bring him up, I wouldn’t change it for the world”.
Paula Curtiss, Shared Lives Manager at Hull City Council, says: “Becoming a Shared Lives Carer is a big decision, but as the people who are involved with the scheme have said, it’s an extremely rewarding experience for everyone involved.
“We’d love to hear from people around Hull who think they could be involved – you could be single or a couple, a parent or not, a homeowner or a council or private tenant, the scheme really is for everyone. When someone does become a carer they receive comprehensive training, there’s financial support, and practical and emotional support which is available at any time families might need it. For social housing tenants who are serious about being involved but don’t have an extra room, there’s even the potential to look into moving to a different property.
“Shared Lives is a really fantastic scheme which gives people the benefit of being part of a family home and a community. We’re at a point where we’re looking to expand it further and would encourage anyone who thinks they might like to get involved to get in touch and discuss it further. It doesn’t matter if you have no experience in looking after someone in this way – most of our carers don’t when they first come to us”.
For more information about Shared Lives, including how to become a carer, call: 01482 300 300. For information about the national Shared Lives scheme, visit: www.sharedlivesplus.org.uk
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