Published: Thursday, 5th December 2019

Medway Council is encouraging residents to find out more about how they can support adults with learning disabilities by becoming a Shared Lives carer.

Shared Lives carers can offer short-term or respite care, long-term placements, day support, temporary stays and transition placements between fostering and Shared Lives.

Shared Lives offers support to those who need it and gives them a chance to move in or spend time with an approved Shared Lives carer. Together they share a home, family and community life.

People who can benefit from Shared Lives care include people with a learning disability, a mental health problem, those leaving hospital, people in need of short-term care, young people in transition from children’s services and older people with dementia.

Shared Lives carers are carefully matched with those who need help and support and they will both have the chance to meet each other and get to know each other better before a long-term placement.

Medway Council recognises the importance of making sure that people are matched with someone with similar interests and hobbies.

We visited three of our Shared Lives families in Medway to find out more about what becoming a Shared Lives carer is like and whether they would recommend signing up.

Meet Dave and Fraser

After Dave retired one of his friends told him about Shared Lives and he looked into it and liked what he saw. He completed the training and started off as a respite carer and now he is a permanent carer for Fraser, aged 46.

Dave said: “There are many benefits being a Shared Lives carer. First of all, it’s a paid position which is significant. Secondly, there is a whole infrastructure that you can rely on. I make full use of the Shared Lives resource, their social workers and their management staff who between them have a wealth of experience in this area. I don’t view Shared Lives as my employer but rather as I explained before, part of a support for me in doing what I’m doing so it is just a big, warm fuzzy feeling that you get being part of that organisation.”

Dave enjoys spending time with Fraser and said that he gets just as much out of their relationship as Fraser does.

He added: “There’s nothing more rewarding.”

Shared Lives has changed Dominick’s life

Dominick, 26, has been living with Denise and her family since October 2018 and said his life has completely changed.

He said: “My life has changed dramatically from being this young man who just sat down for seven years staring at a TV, playing on his Xbox. Now I have got myself two jobs, I still go to college, I go to the cinema, I go bowling, I go on holiday; there’s an awful lot that has changed in my life.”

Denise said she would encourage others to find out more about becoming a Shared Lives carer.

She said: “Don’t be scared to say yes. Nothing is set in stone but for us the minute Dominick arrived it was as if he was here for years, he slotted in. The support we get is excellent. We get paid for being a Shared Lives carer and, to be honest, I haven’t looked back.”

Dominick added: “What I would say to every person who decides to join Shared Lives is absolutely go for it, jump in at the deep end. If you decide to join Shared Lives it will change your life completely.”

Julie’s watched Emma and Terry grow in confidence

Emma, 26, and Terry, 19, live with Julie and her family. Julie was initially a foster carer and became Emma’s Shared Lives carer when she was 18.

Emma said: “My life is different and nice in lots of different ways. I do lots of different things; I do voluntary work in a café, I go out with Julie and do an activity and lunch out, and I go to line dance and bingo.”

Julie said she’s pleased to have watched both Emma and Terry grow in confidence.

She said: “I really enjoy being a Shared Lives carer. Emma, when she first came to us, was terrified of the cooker and now I just sit in the kitchen and she prepares a full meal and it’s lovely to see. To see them when they are at drama club being part of the show remembering their lines, doing their acting - Terry wouldn’t even come out from behind the curtain when he first went there, his confidence has grown.

“Emma used to have her head down and not talk to people and shuffle around. Now she is very confident and speaks to people and has her own opinion, so it’s great. You know, it’s nice to see them develop that.”

Emma added: “To be part of this family feels amazing, fantastic, cool and fabulous.”

Make a real difference to people's lives

Chris McKenzie, Assistant Director of Adult Social Care at Medway Council, said: “By becoming a Shared Lives carer you can make a real difference to people’s lives. Our carers support people they have gotten to know and chosen to care for and there is lots of support and advice available. I would encourage anyone who is interested to contact our team to find out more.” 

Find out more about Shared Lives.

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