Celebrating caring Oxfordshire couple during Shared Lives Week
For the past 25 years Sue and Tim Clayton have been sharing their Oxfordshire farmhouse with adults in need of practical and emotional support.
During that time, the selfless couple have allowed more than 40 people to live their lives more fully and independently and feel part of a family household.
Despite retiring from duties on their 25-acre farm near Wallingford, Sue and Tim remain as dedicated as ever to Oxfordshire County Council’s Shared Lives scheme and fully intend to keep opening their home to those in need of adult social care.
Shared Lives is funded by the county council and part of the council’s commitment to thriving communities – helping people to live safe, healthy lives and play an active part in their community.
Dedication rewarded at Oxfordshire care awards
Sue and Tim were rewarded for their dedication earlier this year at the Oxfordshire Association of Care Providers awards, winning in the Long Term Service category which spans all areas of adult social care.
Reflecting on the prize, Sue said: “It was surprising, humbling, unexpected and undeserved. I feel it’s an award not just for us but for the whole of the Shared Lives scheme.
“It’s such a fantastic scheme to enable people to live as much of a family life as they can. The award isn’t just mine. It’s for all of those involved in the scheme. It’s for everyone who shares their lives.”
Shared Lives Carers provide anything from occasional short breaks or daytime support through to a longer-term, full-time arrangement.
There are currently 80 carers providing a home for about 120 adults in the county and the Shared Lives team is keen to recruit more as it celebrates Shared Lives Week.
All carers receive ongoing support and training from social workers to ensure delivery of high-quality, person-centred care. They could also be paid up to just over £400 per week for each person they support.
‘I’ve developed skills I never even knew existed’
Sue, 77, had previously run a bed and breakfast at the farmhouse but chose to make a different use of the rooms after spotting an advert.
“We used to attract a lot of Americans because it’s only an hour’s drive from Heathrow. But then the Dollar and the Pound changed places and the Americans stopped coming and I had all these rooms available.
“I saw a little advert in the shop window for a scheme which back then was called Adult Family Placement.
“It was a bit of an eye-opener to start with because my children were just leaving teenagerhood and becoming adults. All of a sudden it was like having a teenager on my hands again.
“We did a certain amount of respite to begin with and it was very rewarding. I’ve developed skills that I never even knew existed.”
Over the past 25 years Sue and Tim have supported adults with a wide range of adult social care needs.
They are encouraged to help in the garden, care for the chickens, muck out the horses and even paint some of the outbuildings
“I’ve always felt that with Shared Lives, particularly when you’ve got young ones moving into the scheme, they can all benefit from being encouraged to be more independent,” Sue said.
“It’s so rewarding to see how people grow and blossom, becoming more confident in themselves and the world and being able to do things they never thought they’d be able to do.”
‘Their longevity of service is incredible’
The couple were nominated for the award by Becky Lee, the Shared Lives social worker who captured the hearts of TV viewers after twice appearing on Channel 4’s First Dates.
Becky has worked with the couple since 2016 and was overjoyed when they scooped the award.
She said: “All of our Shared Lives Carers are incredible in what they do. But the thing that made Sue and Tim stand out is the longevity of the service they’ve provided, which is a huge amount of years.
“They provide a really unique household and everyone I know who has come here has really flourished. Work like that needs to be recognised and it’s happening all over the county.”
So what would Sue say to those thinking about following in her footsteps and becoming a Shared Lives Carer?
“Think about whether you’d like someone in your house. Whether you enjoy company and helping people and seeing them grow and blossom and seeing their lives becoming richer because of the skills you can help them develop.
“If you think that’s for you, don’t stop, go straight in and do it. The Shared Lives team are fantastic in supporting you and helping you to do all the things like paperwork.”
Cllr Lawrie Stratford, Cabinet member for Adult Social Care, said: “I take my hat off to people like Sue and Tim. I’ve got nothing but admiration for all those carers across the county who open up their homes and make people feel like they're part of the family.”
How you can become a Shared Lives Carer
Shared Lives Carers can be single people, single parents, couples who live together, married couples, couples with children or friends sharing accommodation. Age, ethnicity, sexual orientation or disability are not barriers to you becoming a carer.
You need to either own or rent your own home, which has a spare bedroom and be willing to share your home with a person who needs support.
No qualifications or experience are needed but the scheme will be looking for those who can communicate effectively, build positive relationships and enable people to make choices and decisions.
Call the Oxfordshire Shared Lives Scheme on 01865 897971 or visit our website www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/sharedlives