Before Christmas, Shared Lives Plus provided postcards to all the local Shared Lives schemes. Shared Lives carers could send the postcards to their local MPs and councillors, inviting them to come to visit the scheme to find out what Shared Lives was all about. It worked really well in several areas and Nancy Plowes, who runs the scheme in Bradford and Chairs our England committee, has kindly written a guest blog about what happened next, drawing on the words of two people who use Shared Lives in the area:
In January this year we sent out publicity postcards to all the Shared Lives carers on the Scheme so they could send them on if they wished. So far two MPs, Philip Davies and David Ward, have replied and have met with Shared Lives carers, family members and service users.
They each spent over an hour with us and paid good attention to what people were saying. They were particularly interested in what a difference Shared Lives makes to peoples lives. One of the service users, Lisa*, has given permission for us to share her thoughts.
Lisa was referred to us when she had been admitted to emergency respite. Lisa has a lot of skills and can appear to be very capable and in control, but it soon became clear that she was unravelling. She moved in with the Shared Lives carer, Claire*, in November 2013, and we thought that if she stuck it out to the New Year that would be a success. She is still there now and though she has no intention of moving soon, she has a more realistic idea of where she might want to live in the future.
Lisa says that she feels her life has turned around over the last six months.
- My depression has gone
- I have stopped smoking
- I am going to the gym five times a week
- I am eating healthily
- I have reduced my medication massively (soon to come off my last tablet)
- I am starting to build a relationship with my family
- I am more happier in myself
- My relationship with my boyfriend is getting better
- I am learning to cook and bake
Claire also supports another woman through Shared Lives, Rebecca* who has been important in helping Lisa settle. Rebecca showed Philip Davies the fabulous photomontage of her horse riding, a new skill she has learnt and of which she is justifiably proud.
The second group met MP David Ward and he was struck by the passion of the Shared Lives carers as they talked about the quality of support they provide. At that meeting a family member described how the Shared Lives services have helped her to support her brother who went to live with her following the death of their mother. At first, he refused to consider staying overnight anywhere other than at home, but after a while of spending time with his Shared Lives carers, he saw them as his friends and agreed to stay one night and now goes for a week at a time.
Both MPs said that they will pick up the promotion of Shared Lives as a positive model of care and support and they will use their influence to look at how best to raise the profile.
Nancy Plowes Team Manager Shared Lives Bradford
*Names have been changed