All I want for Christmas…

Anna McEwen, our Director of Support and Development Director, has been celebrating Shared Lives with the Newham scheme. Anna writes:

My Christmas party season started in style at the weekend as I donned a posh frock and joined Newham Shared Lives scheme at a Glitter Ball at West Ham.  You couldn’t get much more central to the community in Newham than West Ham FC amidst the great football legends who adorn the walls.  400 Newham residents were wined, dined and then danced the night away with Shared Lives carers, people who live with them and scheme workers right in the midst of the festivities.

It was great to see some familiar and some new faces with many of the first Shared Lives carers I recruited there.  I met Steven and Josh for the first time.  Josh is a young man with learning disabilities who lives with his Mum but things had been getting a bit too much at home, and his Mum needed a break.  Josh was matched with Steven, a Shared Lives carer, and his wife Denise, who live with their 2 children in Southend.  Josh has now spent 3 weekends with Steven, and when I asked him to write down his Christmas wishes for Shared Lives he wrote “I would like to live at Steven & Denise’s”.  Steven says that when he first came to stay, Josh did not speak at all, he was withdrawn into himself.  Josh is now speaking, smiling, is positively animated, and from what I saw on the dance floor, feels happy and relaxed and has absolute trust in his Shared Lives carers.

I asked everyone to write down their Christmas wishes for Shared Lives.  Wishes included

my wish
my wish

getting on to Women’s hour to talk about the first Homeshare arrangement in the scheme, the community in Newham to know what Shared Lives is, to continue the wonderful work Shared Lives is doing in making changes in people’s lives, and my favourites – more parties and an explosive expansion!  I’m sure if you asked other groups of Shared Lives carers the wishes would be similar.

Joining us for the evening was Cllr Joy Laguda, Mayoral Advisor for Adults and a member of the Shared Lives panel.  Joy was a great advocate of Shared Lives from the start, but when she asked me if I’d thought at the beginning that the scheme was going to take off like it has, I was reminded of something else I heard this week.  Becky Booth, CEO of Spice, at the inspiring launch of their evaluation, was asked if they’d imagined the success of Spice when they started, and answered that they knew that people were amazing but didn’t know where that amazingness might lead.  I could say something similar about setting up the Shared Lives scheme in Newham, in that I didn’t know where it might lead but that I believed in the power of people and communities.  The proof really was in the pudding on Friday night as amazing people who are sharing their lives celebrated together in the heart of the community, and it made me very proud.

These stories are happening all over the country because people are genuinely amazing, and when amazing people come together to share their lives, amazingness does happen.  It was a truly wonderful evening and there are many, many more wonderful people up and down the country, but Newham will always have my heart!

So, at this time of year, when we’re thinking about our communities, it is worth remembering that Shared Lives is not just for Christmas but goes on quietly every day in ordinary family homes and all I want for Christmas is for more people to know the magic that is Shared Lives.

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