The Shared Lives Scheme recruits Shared Lives Carers to provide individuals with the opportunity to live in the community, where they can develop their skills and confidence in a stable supported environment.
Shared Lives is a service provided in the carer's own home, (they may live alone, with their partner and/or other family members). They offer many of the important things only a real home can. They enable someone to live an ordinary life at the heart of their community. They value the person and promote their independence and choice. They provide people with support in day-to-day living, their own personal space, emotional as well as physical support and a sense of belonging and being part of the community.
Shared Lives Scheme really changes people's lives.
Kevin moved to his current Shared Lives placement in July 2008. Prior to this he had been a full time college student - living away from Coventry on the college campus. He had stayed with two other Shared Lives carers on a temporary basis during college holidays since May 2006.
When Kevin was at college he spent a lot of time on his own, which he really didn't like, as he is a rather sociable person, and prefers to have people around him.
Kevin said "I was generally able to go out on planned trips, with the support of the staff, for things like shopping, but there was no time to have any fun, or a laugh. Everything was a bit serious, with the staff just doing their job".
Kevin says meal times were also a bit restricted, as although the staff gave him a choice, it was only ever from a couple of dishes that they had pre-selected, so it didn't feel like he had much of a choice. He said "I understand that they were busy and didn't have much time, and I couldn't just go out to the shops if I wanted something else".
Kevin did not have many friends at college and there were few opportunities to meet new people. He says that this affected his confidence and he often felt nervous. Kevin suffered with anxiety attacks whilst he was at college. He says he was particularly anxious at night when he heard noises - creaks and bumps - when he was alone in his room.
Kevin feels that his life has improved dramatically since moving into his Shared Lives Placement. He describes himself as a 'city person' and is very happy with the placement's location, close to the city centre.
Kevin said "It is easy to get to the shops here, as there are lots of shops nearby. "It's also much easier now to make friends with people, as I get to meet lots who are my carer's family and friends. I certainly wouldn't have met them if I wasn't living here".
Since moving in, Kevin's Shared Lives Carer has supported him to go to concerts, with live music being a new experience for him.
Kevin went on to give another example of different places he has been. He said that recently some members of the Carer's friend's family were going to a skate park and Kevin went along with them. This led to him making some new friends and experiencing something new. Kevin enjoys doing things spontaneously, that don't always have to be planned. He says, "In my new home, you don't always have to follow the same routine, doing the same things at the same time. It's just an ordinary family home, with no long corridors or big hallways, and that feels so much better."
Kevin does not have anxiety attacks any more. Noises at night do not bother him, as he feels safe, knowing that other people are in the house. He likes to go to the cupboard and get food whenever he wants. Kevin also helps with the food shopping and can choose things that he wants. He helps out by making drinks for everybody in the house, emptying the dishwasher, taking the washing off the line, and helping to cook. People in the house take turns to choose what is cooked for the main evening meal and everybody has the opportunity to participate. Kevin says "Since I moved here I have tried so many new foods that I didn't realise I would like. My favourites are fish, salad, fruit, chilli, curry, Chinese, Italian, and Indian foods. I was never given the opportunity to try new food before, but here, when others were eating them, I decided to try them myself, and discovered that I really like lots of different dishes."
Kevin likes to have a laugh and enjoys good humoured banter with others in the house. He said "You don't always have to be serious. It's not strict and you're not ordered about."
Kevin enjoys being part of a family, living with others, sharing household tasks and taking things in turns. He said "I can go to my room whenever I want to, as sometimes I like to spend time playing computer games. I don't do this as much as I used to because I like to be part of what is going on downstairs. It's nice to be able to have pets too".
Kevin added "If my Dad was here now, he would see how much I've developed. I'm so much more confident and like joining in".
The Shared Lives Carer who supports Kevin has said how rewarding it is to see how much his confidence has developed since he moved into the placement. He is much more willing to interact with others, and also to try new things (especially foods). She is pleased to have been able to support him to rebuild the relationship with his mother and sister who - for various reasons - he has not had contact with for some time. The Carer said that she had to approach this sensitively, but it has proven to be a positive experience for all concerned. Kevin is pleased about re-establishing contact, and for his family to see how happy he is.
Kevin's grandparents are also regular visitors to his new home, and they have remarked how much his self confidence has grown. They are pleased that Kevin is being supported to stay fit and healthy and that he has a lot of social and leisure activities - as well as having successfully completed a course at college. Also that he has found a college course in Coventry and has maintained attendance.
The Carer says it is very rewarding to see just how much Kevin has developed as a person, and to have her efforts recognised by Kevin's family.
*Kevin is not the real name, it has been changed to protect the identity.
If you are interested in finding out more about the Shared Lives Scheme, and how you could be paid a generous weekly allowance, and gain satisfaction knowing you have changed someone's life for the better, then contact the Shared Lives team.