Leeds City Council Shared Lives service was established in 1978 and was the first local authority scheme of its kind in the country. The Shared Lives Short Breaks and Day Support service is a strong alternative to traditional day centres and residential respite services, providing a flexible, personalised, community and family based service in Shared Lives carers’ homes. In Leeds the short breaks scheme has 61 shared lives carers supporting 112 people each year with overnight breaks and day support sessions. These are mainly people with a learning disability but the number of referrals for older people is growing.
The aim of Shared Lives is to enable people with support needs to access an ordinary family life in an ordinary home enabling people to live life to the full in the community. This way of working helps people develop or maintain independent living skills, friendships and roots giving them a sense of belonging.
Shared Lives worker, Karen Thompson tells us about the day she met Rose – a Shared Lives carer who supports Ben for Short Breaks in her home one weekend every month.
When I arrived to visit Ben and Rose I was met with two wide smiles and the warmest of welcomes. Ben was sitting on the floor reading a magazine and there was some anticipation in the air about the impending photo-shoot, not least from me hoping that I would press the correct button. Rose is a very experienced Shared Lives carer; she visits three customers in their own homes during the week, as well as supporting Ben for Short Breaks in her home one weekend every month. Rose has a busy life, lots of friends and is close to her family – including five young grandchildren whom Ben has met.
I asked Rose why she decided to become involved with Short Breaks.
“I decided to offer Short Breaks because I had a spare bed room and wanted to extend support to someone within my own home” says Rose “Ben is an absolute tonic, he brings life into my home as soon as he arrives. He always has a smile and is so easy-going and relaxed. We both love music and singing and we both love getting the most out of life. It’s a pleasure” she says speaking about her relationship with him.
Ben tells me he loves his bedroom at Rose’s and especially likes the fact that he can play his music up there and watch the TV when he wants – just like he does at home.
“I love Rose, I feel great when I come here and I like to go out with her and chat with her” he says. Ben enjoys being a part of Rose’s life on a regular basis and it means a lot to him that he is able to stay with her. He tells me he gets a bit spoiled when he stays with Rose and he’s very happy to eat pizza, cheese burger and pasta for tea.
Ben’s mum, Linda, feels that she can get the most out of her weekend off knowing that Ben is safe and happy with Rose.
Karen adds “Just before I left them settling down for the evening, Ben was checking out the TV pages in his magazine. He loves anything to do with James Bond (his favourite being Dr. No), Emmerdale and Coronation Street. Later on tonight, he and Rose would choose a film they would both like and settle down together to watch.”
Ben was in the kitchen dispatching his tea cup into the sink, as I said goodbye to Rose in the hall, he wandered upstairs to his room to play music. Driving away, I tried to think of another service that could depict ‘home from home’ in quite the same way….”
Shared Lives carers are recruited, assessed, fully checked via DBS and references and they undergo pre and post approval training. Shared Lives carers are recruited from a wide spectrum of backgrounds including single households, families with young children, same sex couples, older carers and carers from BME communities. Once approved, the matching begins and is an individual, person centred process which goes at the service users pace and to meet their expressed wishes – it is truly a joint venture. Once a match is made both the carer and service user are supported throughout by scheme workers, to respond to any issues or concerns, including a regular review of the Shared Lives carer and service user. Both services are registered with the Care Quality Commission and assessed as fully compliant.
Shared Lives services in Leeds are currently provided by two separate organisations:
- St Anne’s Community Services Shared Lives team provide long term arrangements for people with a learning disability
- Leeds City Council Shared Lives service provides short breaks and day support
If you are interested in learning more about becoming a Shared Lives carer then visit www.leeds.gov.uk and go to “Contact Us” to get in touch with Shared Lives Leeds. The LCC scheme also runs a separate but complementary Outreach service.