Driving instructor Harris gives the green light to Shared Lives

Harris and Shaun 1

For Harris Ponen becoming a Shared Lives carer seemed like a natural step.

The driving instructor followed in the footsteps of both his parents and aunt, to join in the Shared Lives scheme at the end of 2018 and open his home to adults in need of emotional and practical support.

“I've been a Shared Lives carer since November 2018; my parents and aunty have been involved as carers for over 15 years,” said Oxford-based Harris.

“I wanted to make a difference to someone’s life as I've seen first hand how my mum has provided a home and a stimulating environment for people in need and the rewards and benefits that brings to everyone involved.”

Shared Lives is funded by Oxfordshire County Council and part of its commitment to help people live safe, healthy lives and play an active part in their community.

There are currently 80 Shared Lives carer households providing support to about 130 adults in the county. They provide anything from occasional short breaks or daytime support through to a longer-term, full-time arrangements.

Harris explained: “Sharing a family’s life means that people who need support can choose to become part of an ordinary household, instead of staying in residential care or being looked after by a team of support workers. 

“People using the scheme make new friends, develop new skills and gain the confidence to be as independent as possible, helping to reduce isolation and allowing them to stay living independently for longer.”

It is a paid role, training and support are provided.  

Harris has been supporting Shaun since March 2020. He said: “Shaun has become part of my family and we all work and get on like clockwork. What’s rewarding about being a Shared Lives carer is knowing you’re giving someone love and a home and helping them make a difference in their life.”

Shaun is absolutely loving his time with Harris and says his life has changed for the better. “Shared lives has helped me because I wasn't happy before in assisted living as I was just in a room in a house and I was left to deal with all my anxiety issues on my own,” he said.

“But now, I'm in a family home where I'm getting full support for my needs. The best thing about Harris is that I can tease him all day and he teases me back. He talks and listens to me about anything!”

Harris added: “If anyone is thinking about being a Shared Lives carer and they have a spare room, I would say go for it. If you are a caring and patient person and enjoy company this is for you.

“I've had support and training throughout being a carer, which has not only given me more knowledge of who I'm taking care of but has expanded my understanding and ability to deal with a wide range of social and emotional issues.”

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.

Find out more about how you can get involved by visiting Oxfordshire County Council’s website oxfordshire.gov.uk/sharedlives