Shared Lives - MAIN EDIT

Shared Lives matchmaker Becky out of luck in the romance stakes

Social worker Becky Lee is the perfect matchmaker at work, but when it comes to finding her own love match she’s all out of luck.

Becky, 37, captured the hearts of viewers after appearing not once, but twice, on a reality TV dating show.

While she might have been out of luck in the romance stakes, Becky’s a lot more successful when it comes to matching people through the Shared Lives scheme.

Oxfordshire County Council’s Shared Lives team helps to recruit people ready to share their home and matches them with adults in need of practical and emotional support.

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.

Opening their homes to make a huge difference

Shared Lives Carers provide a home for people in need of adult social care, allowing them to live their lives more fully and independently and feel part of a family household.

It can be 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.

“We work with carers and those people who use the service and build up those relationships,” said Becky. “We meet them and find out what their preferences are – where they’d like to live, what they enjoy doing, what their routines are like. And we look at what could potentially be a good match.

“When it works it’s just the best. We’ve had people in placements for years and years and years. The lovely ones are where they might spend so long in such a great environment that really empowers that person to become their best self and be independent.

“Being a caring person and opening your heart to people is one thing. But opening up your whole lifestyle and your home and inviting that person in to share with you is really going above and beyond, and that’s what our carers do.”

‘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.

Cllr Lawrie Stratford, Cabinet member for Adult Social Care, 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.”

Two contrasting dates

Channel 4’s reality TV show First Dates catches all the conversation as couples carefully paired together either click and go on to see each other again, decide romance is not for them but stay as friends, or clash and consign any notion of a relationship to the waste bin.

Becky won the nation’s sympathy after her first date repeatedly checked for football scores on his mobile and later described her as being ‘too short’.

“It was the most disastrous date ever, much to my obliviousness!” said Becky. “But if anything, what came out of this huge disaster was the most loveliest outpouring of support and kindness from people who just wanted to reach out and tell me not to worry and not to allow his comments to get me down.”

She featured on the show for a second time a week later. This time things went a lot more smoothly, but her date dashed any hopes of romance when he suggested they remain as friends.

“I definitely would have gone on a second date but like I said on the show, I wasn’t going to go home and cry into my pillow,” said Becky.

“I really appreciated his honesty. Even when I left that evening I was really happy because I’d met someone else who was really lovely.

“We genuinely have stayed in touch as friends. We’re like-minded souls but we’re just not romantically connected.”

So will Becky be invited back for a third time? Watch this space…

Call the Oxfordshire Shared Lives Scheme on 01865 897971 or visit our website