“It’s just such a lovely thing to do” – how being a shared lives carer is something the whole family can enjoy

Abbie shares her life in her role as a Shared Lives Carer

For 44 year old Abbie Clayton and her husband Sam, who’s 46, being shared lives carers is part of their DNA.

Sam grew up sharing his family home with people with additional needs through the shared lives scheme.

The innovative programme, run by Oxfordshire County Council, carefully matches adults with long term conditions with a caring household who can support them to live independently, often giving their full-time carers a chance to take a break.

And having seen what a positive experience the programme brought to his life, Sam and his wife Abbie, who are based near Wallingford in south Oxfordshire, wanted the same for their children.The Claytons shared lives carers 2

Abbie said: “It’s great to have more people in the family. Rather than detracting from the children, it makes them appreciate diversity. It’s nice to see them growing up in an environment where they can provide that caring role as well. It really gives something back.”

Abbie and Sam have been shared lives carers for 17 years, helping to support eight people during that time. The paid position comes with regular ongoing support and training, enabling them to feel confident that they’re providing an environment for their guests to flourish.

Abbie continues: “The most rewarding thing is seeing people grow and develop into the people they become, pushing them that extra mile to really be independent and experience life as part of the family.

“We get as much training as we need, especially around recognising each person as an individual. We have really open communication with the shared lives team when we need it and other carers as well, so support is always available.”

As part of shared lives week, which runs from Monday 26 to Friday 30 June, Oxfordshire County Council is hosting an event for people involved in the programme, celebrating the special relationships that have formed as a result of the scheme. There will also be a dedicated social media campaign during the week to encourage more people to consider becoming a shared lives carer.

Councillor Tim Bearder, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care, said: “Our shared lives programme forms an innovative part of our Oxfordshire Way vision, supporting people to live well and independently within their own communities for as long as possible.

“The Clayton family is making a real difference to the people who come and stay with them and it’s clear the experience is beneficial for everyone involved. This shared lives week I would like to thank all our shared lives carers for the time and dedication they give to the programme and the people they support.”

Shared lives carers come from all walks of life, from different backgrounds and live in all kinds of homes. If you are a naturally caring person and think you could support an adult with additional needs, you can find out more about the programme at oxfordshire.gov.uk/sharedlives

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