This guest post is by Shared Lives carer and ex-marine, Phil, who tweets as @SharedLives4. Thanks Phil!
“I write this brief note aware that it does not have the polish of a seasoned writer on the subject, so please forgive me for the rudimentary mistakes of grammar etc.
However I felt compelled to write it after attending the Shared Lives Conference in London last week. I attended the conference for the first time last week and if I’m honest I was pleasantly surprised to attend a Social Care / Health Conference, which spoke of the critical importance the Carers were to the progress of the Charity.
I made the trip on behalf of my wife, who is the main carer in our household. She came to UK 12 years ago from Uzbekistan and struck up a close friendship with my aunty Elsa and it was not long after that that she became passionate about the ethos and concept of Shared Lives.
I have to admit I travelled to the conference with a feeling of trepidation as I had been informed by various sources that the Conference had not been very well attended by Carers over the years. The carers I had spoken with felt it had lost its soul a little and had become just another Corporate Conference.
I have had an association with Shared Lives since I was 10 years old, as my aunt started caring via the first project in Liverpool with help the redoubtable Sue Newton. In fact 40 years later “our Linda “, as she was known, who my aunt had cared for all those years ago, moved in with me 5 years ago. My aunt had to retire earlier than she planned from Shared Lives, as she had to devote her time to her terminally ill husband.
Therefore as young boy staying over at my aunt’s house at the age of 10, I would never have believed that “our Linda” would be living in my home, as part of my family, 35 years later!
Which brings me to the conference: while there were some excellent speeches and lots of positive rhetoric, for me it was the conversations with the carers that really were heartfelt. The passion and commitment of living 24hours a day, 7 days week of people who truly loved their role as carers, was the highlight of the conference for me.
The most important speeches in my humble opinion was a workshop which involved 2 carers Sam and David, who like myself had a family connection with Shared Lives and grew up with the project at its infancy. The words they spoke were simply from the heart and it was told with a humility and dignity, which quite frankly brought a tear to this ex-Marine’s eyes.
I’m not ignorant of the hard work that the professionals involved in the schemes are doing, as when speaking with them it was clear how passionate they are for Shared Lives to succeed. In fact as social worker myself I know the commitment my colleagues have for their work, but now as a carer I truly empathise with the life changing sacrifices that they make each day.
It is for this reason that I sincerely do hope and pray that the momentum from the conference that has placed the carers of Shared Lives at the forefront of the minds of professionals, politicians and decision makers is not lost. It would be tragic if the fire that shone so brightly at the conference were to become merely just embers after several weeks.”