Residents who have joined an initiative to provide short and long terms breaks for adults with learning disabilities are encouraging more people to come forward and join the scheme.
The Stoke-on-Trent City Council service enables people, aged 18 years or over with learning disabilities, to live more fulfilling and independent lives in a home environment at the heart of the community – an alternative to the traditional care home setting.
Kim is a Shared Lives Stoke carer who offers overnight stays whether that’s for one night or a week or so, to people with learning disabilities.
She said: “I get so much satisfaction out of the chance of helping other people and supporting them to do the things that they’ve wanted to do and haven’t thought that they could do it. It’s very much about providing a home from home, that is Shared Lives to a tee, someone coming to my home and being a part of it. I love it.
Kim, who has supported a number of people through the coronavirus pandemic and has recently had a new lady stay overnight to help with getting around the city safely and to social events, added: “There’s a new lady staying with us for one night who wants to branch out more and be more independent. She’ll choose a place she’d like to go and I’ll help her out with the bus journey, where to press for the bell and where to get off.”
The matching process is a key factor in making Shared Lives Stoke a success. The Shared Lives team will match the carer to the person who wishes to access the service by obtaining as much information as they can about them and their needs, to get the best match. When they have a match, the person can see a video of the Shared Lives carer and their home and if they are happy a meeting will be arranged.
Kim said: “They first come to look at the bedroom and then come for tea, we then sit and chat to try to get to know them and what they’d like to do when they come to the house.”
Kim also has people stay who are thinking about getting their own flat or want to stay in their own home, but with support. She helps them to learn valuable life skills, so they can have more independence and strive towards having their own home. She said: “I help them with household tasks, so they have an idea of what it’s like having their own place.”
Other tasks carers can help with include, cleaning, cooking, gardening, accompanying the person to appointments and work placements and helping them with their medication and general wellbeing.
The service also offers placements on a permanent or long-term basis. Zoe and her family have been supporting a young man of 18 years old, with learning disabilities for ten years. They were previously his foster parents and have recently transitioned to the Shared Lives scheme to enable him to stay with them.
Zoe helps him with banking and shopping and with going to hospital appointments and college. She said: “He has been very much part of our family and we’re really pleased to be able to continue to support him through Shared Lives. The plan is that he is eventually looking to get his own place and the idea is that we support him and give him the extra time that he needs to learn to be independent.
“I get satisfaction out of the idea of supporting him to be independent and to develop and practise the skills needed to live in the big wide world. It may be as small as a telephone call to book an appointment. When you have learning disabilities, it may take a little extra time to learn those skills and that’s what we are here for. It also enhances our family life because we have another dynamic to it.”
Shared Lives carers are given an allowance for the support they provide depending on the level of need of the adult they are supporting, and no formal qualifications are required. Just the right values and behaviours, such as flexibility, good communication, compassion, empathy and a caring, understanding and friendly nature.
Carers also need to show courage to do things a bit differently and have initiative to solve problems, as well as a willingness to learn and develop.
Councillor Ally Simcock, cabinet member for adult social care and health care, said: “Shared Lives Stoke operate a family kind of approach to the application process, where they get to know and support everybody and will work around the carer as much as possible. This is particularly good for people who work full-time or lead busy lifestyles and want to give up some of their time at weekends, but are not sure how to fit in the time.
“The service makes such a difference to people’s lives. It gives people independence, with support available as they need it, and it is rewarding and fulfilling work for carers. It’s just lovely to see people sharing their lives, sharing their experiences and having such a positive impact. I encourage people to come forward to find out more about the initiative and how to get involved.”
To find out more and to chat to a member of the Shared Lives team, who is always on hand, call: 01782 235000 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org