Today we are all at the sold-out Shared Lives Plus UK conference in Birmingham. Here’s a guest blog from ‘Tom’ who lives with one of Birmingham’s Shared Lives carers and kindly shared his story:
I came to live with my current Birmingham City Council Shared Lives Carer when I was 11 as a foster child and I had experienced a terrible time in care since I was six being moved from one carer to another which I found hard to cope with due to lots of changes.
When I became 18 social services were looking at me moving to be in independent living but I would not have coped as I need support with daily living tasks that aren’t a priority to me. My Foster Carer and family and I wanted to stay together so my Carer undertook the Birmingham Shared Lives Assessment and got Panel Approval and we both came into the scheme. Since that time I have completed my second year of a degree and my Shared Lives Carer has delivered training to other Shared Lives Carers around Autism due to her specialist knowledge.
When I was 20 my friend wanted to go to Japan again. He had been before and knew his way round but the two of us wanted to go. My Carer and I looked at the availability of holidays and chose a package which was very structured which is what supports me. Every day we had a plan that told us where we were staying, what station to go to, what train to get on to get to the next town, what to see in that town, where to find our hotel, what time to leave the hotel to get to the next train etc. Since being with my Carer she has encouraged me to read signs to help me learn and get on the right plane or train.
My Shared Lives Carer supported me to get my money ready so we packaged my money into small amounts and put them in marked envelopes for every second day and put them in order in my money belt. I also carried my passport and tickets with my money and never took it off unless I was in a hotel room.
What if something went wrong? – My Shared Lives Carer helped me to consider what to do if a plan changed so we devised a “ Plan B” as she called it, and then I am prepared. The key for me is being prepared.
So we learnt all about the British Embassy and how if you go to one of those (list in my back pack) then they will get you safely home. My Shared Lives Carer had a small bag packed and a schedule of all flights to Japan and could have been with me in 12 hours if I needed her. I knew if something bad happened to stay in the hotel and wait for my Carer. She made sure that I had a smart phone where she could contact me every day. She had a spare copy of my schedule in case I lost it. I had access to my emails on my phone with all sorts of copies of stuff on it.
This first holiday was very successful and I came back in one piece. Yes it was a risk but we had thought of everything we could and put in plans for any eventualities we could think of. Japan has a very low crime rate and I was safe. My Carer could have said no, you can’t do that it’s too dangerous but she understands that we all have to face danger every day crossing roads and that’s how we grow into more confident adults.
I have since been on another holiday the following year, very similar to the first one and my confidence has grown in Japan.
This year I decided I wanted to learn Japanese and we found a course in Japan.