People like to say hello to me

I’m very grateful for this guest blog about Shared Lives short breaks from Certitude’s Shared Lives Scheme’s manager, Lauren Johnson. Certitude are pioneering the use of Shared Lives as a way for people to take holidays and short breaks out of their usual area. We have just developed a national Breaks and Holidays project to help local schemes to work together to do this, which, for instance, enabled someone from London to take a holiday with a family in sunny Scarborough this summer. Lauren writes:

As the leaves on the trees turn deep, golden orange and there’s a chill developing in the cool autumn air, we reminisce about summer holidays lived and enjoyed and think about our next adventures; the opportunity to spend some time away from home, to rest and recharge our batteries.

For the people supported by Certitude’s Shared Lives it is no different. This year people have had really exciting trips away; to Mauritius, to Turkey, to Disneyland Paris. We are a well-travelled bunch!

But what about breaks closer to home? Certitude’s Shared Lives carers provide short breaks not only in London but in other parts of the country too. People from London can spend a weekend in the peaceful Norfolk countryside or a week by the sea in sunny Sussex. People from those areas can enjoy some time in the hustle and bustle of London.

These breaks widen people’s experiences. As with all Shared Lives arrangements, participants are matched together, so that the individual can develop a positive mutual relationship with a short breaks Shared Lives carer and receive really consistent support from someone who knows them well.

Lester has a wide range of support options available to him when his long term Shared Lives carer, Maya, wants to take a short break. Sometimes he chooses to stay in London, sometimes to see his sister in Brighton but at least once a year he goes to stay with Gill and her family in St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex. Gill and her husband Dave support two people through Shared Lives and their household is a busy one, as Gill’s mum also lives at home and the family have six dogs and two cats. Lester cherishes the time he spends in this vibrant and lively home.

It’s clear when talking to Lester how much affection he has for Gill and Dave and how welcome he feels when he is there. He loves the cuddles from the dogs and trips to the pub for a pint with Dave in the evening. These feelings are more than reciprocated by Gill and Dave, who say they love having Lester to say, that he makes them laugh with his practical jokes but that he has the “softest, kindest heart.”

Lester is very clear he considers it a holiday and a break from London. He says that one of the reasons he goes back again and again, as well as his bond with Gill and Dave, is that it’s so different to London. Lester describes the East Sussex town where Gill and Dave live as “quiet, you can hear the birds singing. Gill keeps chickens and people like to say hello to me.”

When I asked Gill what it means to her when Lester comes to stay, she laughed and said, “whenever Lester leaves, Dave and I look at one another and say, ‘every home should have a Lester’!”.

If you want to find out more about Certitude’s Shared Lives scheme, please contact 020 8772 6222.

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