Share your home and make a big difference to someone else’s life

For the past eight years, Danny Williams and his partner Brenda White have opened their Cowley home to some of the community’s most vulnerable adults.

As participants in the Oxfordshire Shared Lives Scheme, they have supported more than 50 people in their home.

Danny and Brenda are among the county’s network of Shared Lives Carers, providing practical and emotional support to allow vulnerable people to live their lives more fully and independently and feel part of a family household.

Now the drive is on to recruit more carers and a drop-in session will be held at Abbey House, Abingdon, on Thursday (December 6) for people to learn more about the service.

Shared Lives is funded by Oxfordshire County Council and supports more than 120 people in the county. It’s all part of the council’s commitment to thriving communities -­ helping people to live safe, healthy lives and play an active part in their community.

Ideal environment

Danny and Brenda are among 80 carers currently providing a home for vulnerable adults in the county. Two service users, Mark Ciampoli and Ian Rigsby, live with them full-time and a further adult attends through the week.

Danny said: “There’s lots of vulnerable people out there and this is almost the ideal environment for us to help them.

“We’ve got a big house and it’s a place for them to come where they can feel at ease. They feel valued being part of a family and you can support them.

“This time of year it’s difficult finding places to go. Here they’ve got someone to talk to; they can sit and watch TV, we play darts, we can go out together. We’ve taken them on trips to London and we’ve even taken them on holiday.”

Shared Lives Carers are supported by social workers who help finding appropriate placements and arranging trial visits.

“The Shared Lives Social Workers are very helpful,” said Danny. “We might start with respite for a weekend, then we might move it to a week. It’s a slow burner but it does work out in the end. On the basis that they want to come back that has to be a positive.”

Mark, 58, has been living at the address in Cowley for the past five years and said he enjoyed the home-cooked food and discos.

Ian, 30, moved into the home in 2014 and enjoys watching football and having post-match debates with Danny.

Both have learning disabilities and the scheme also supports adults with a physical disability or mental health need, an older person or someone with dementia.

Huge difference

Kate Terroni, county council director of adult social care, said they were keen to recruit people from all walks of life who feel they can offer this type of paid support in their own home. It could be anything from occasional short breaks or daytime support through to a longer-term, full-time arrangement.

Kate said: “The support that our carers give makes a huge difference to the lives of people using the service, often enabling them to experience new opportunities and reach new goals.

“If you have a spare room to offer and would like to play a key part in making a positive difference to someone’s life, then we really want to hear from you.”

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.

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 vulnerable or disabled person.

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

People wanting to find out more can attend the drop-in session on Thursday to meet with other carers, social workers from the Shared Lives Team and people using the service. It takes place between 1pm and 2.30pm at Abbey House, Abbey Close, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 3JD.