I was a police officer for 30 years, and many of the skills I’d learnt in the force were easily transferable when my wife, Allison, and I joined Shared Lives and opened our home to adults with care needs.
Being empathetic and open-minded but with plenty of common sense, having integrity and being able to take on responsibility; these skills are essential in both policing and social care, so I found the transition easy.
We’d first come across the Shares Lives scheme through Allison’s work in the social care sector and we became involved six years ago, when I was still a police officer.
I retired from the police in 2018 and we’re full-time care workers now. We’ve never looked back: we make a difference to people’s lives and there is no better feeling than that.
Through Shared Lives, an adult or young person needing long-term support is matched with an approved care worker to share family life. People typically supported by Shared Lives include those with learning disabilities, people with mental health issues and those requiring short-term support after, for example, a hospital stay.
They may stay for a day, a night, a short period of respite or for many years.
We’ve had about ten young people stay with us since we started. Right now we’re supporting two young ladies who live with us full-time. Jane is 23 and came to us from foster care when she was 18. We have been able to give her the family life she never had.
Jane has learning disabilities and foetal alcohol syndrome but with support, she’s been through further education and done an NVQ in hospitality, which is such a huge achievement for her.
Liz, 25, has lived with us for two years. She has a learning disability and came to us from a residential placement. She loves life and has a paid job in hospitality which is fantastic for her self-worth. Both Jane and Liz will live with us until they want to move on.
We’ve also offered respite support where someone might come to us for, say, a couple of nights every week. Shaun has been coming to stay with us for five years. He and our 16-year-old son have a unique and fantastic bond. Being involved in Shared Lives has given our son insight and skills he just wouldn’t have gained elsewhere.
You treat the people you support as your own family and you want the best for them. You offer them compassion, trust and the safety of a stable home environment, then support them to achieve their full potential. You encourage them to believe in themselves and help them to realise they can make a valuable contribution to society.
When we joined Shared Lives, we went through rigorous training with regular home visits so our local Shared Lives service could get to know us and make sure …’we knew what to expect, as well as getting us up to speed on practicalities such as medication and safeguarding.
Shared Lives care workers typically earn £350 to £650 a week if someone lives with them but of course, it’s not about the money. It’s a life changing thing to do because you can make such a difference to people who need support.”
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