Celebrating enduring relationships: Shared Lives Carer Week

Diverse and caring individuals across the county will be celebrating Shared Lives Carers Week (15 – 21 June) to acknowledge the flexible family lifestyle.

Shared Lives carers is a unique caring arrangement enabling people with a learning or physical disability, mental ill health, dementia or other ongoing needs, to share their carer’s home and family life.

To become a Shared Lives Carer - a referral is made to a local Shared Lives scheme. A team of social workers will work with all parties to carry out a rigorous and person-centred matching process. The carer and person meet to build up a relationship and establish trust, tailored to individual needs. The arrangement begins as a trial period, with a view to establishing a longer-term arrangement if required.

The Shared Lives Caring arrangement is varied and based on a bespoke approach, which makes it equally satisfying for the host and the new person who arrives at the home as Shaun explains:

I had been living in supported living accommodation and I was feeling isolated and it was suggested that I might find Shared Lives a better option. My Social worker referred me to Shared Lives and soon I met up with Kerry (who worked for Shared lives). She came and completed an assessment with me and my social worker and then I met two of the shared lives carer’s. One was Sara and the other was Harris, her son. After a couple of meetings, I felt that I would like to live with Harris and then go to Sara for short breaks. On the 1st of April 2020 Harris came to collect me and my belongings and I’m happy to be in my new home - I feel really relaxed with Harris and enjoy his company and banter. It’s now June and I feel like I have been living with Harris for years - I feel I can be myself.

This year, people across the country are continuing to face new challenges as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. Many people are taking on more caring responsibilities for those who need support, in complex and different ways.

Barbara is a Shared Lives Carer for Jenni and she describes how they’ve kept busy during the coronavirus lockdown phase: Jenni has been up to lots during lockdown, but all of the activities has been home based because she is on the shielded list. To reduce any anxieties, I put together a programme which follows similar routines which she accessed before lockdown. We do Zumba dance routines to keep active, a quiz on Facebook with a group of friends, gardening and woodwork. We are very proud of her with the way she has managed this lockdown especially as she has been so restricted. (The main image is Jenni with her bird table that she painted and decorated.)

Sally Ellis is the Shared Lives Scheme Manager at the local authority: here in Oxfordshire we have a hugely successful scheme with households right across the county working on a self-employed basis but we always welcome new applicants. This is a paid role. The success of the scheme is largely due to the enduring positive relationships that are built between the people who use the service and the host households. Some people live together for years, others may just share an occasional weekend together. Either way, Shared Lives arrangements have helped many people on personal journeys to achieve their goals. If you are looking for a life change, a better work/life balance or a meaningful role - this could be a great option for you!

Meanwhile, ‘virtual’ parties will be taking place across the UK as part of Shared Lives Carer Week, organised by Shared Lives Plus, the UK charity. With COVID-19 restrictions in place, households will connect and socialise online, to share cups of tea while celebrating the role of these unique carers and the people they support.

For more information:

If you would like to find out more about becoming a Shared Lives carer and share your home and life with someone who needs support, please contact the team at Oxfordshire County Council www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/sharedlives or call 01865897971.

You can watch a video to explain more about the scheme and read some more experiences of hosts and people who receive care (based on 2019.)