An equal in my home

Catherine, who lives with her Shared Lives carer Liz in Wales, told her moving story at our recent event at the Wales Government in Cardiff, hosted by Julie Morgan who is AM for Cardiff North and joined by Rebecca Evans, the Minister for Social Services and Public Health. The event launched the work of my colleagues Babs and Lois who are developing Shared Lives in Wales for older people and as a health service, amongst other exciting work. Catherine told us first about the mother and baby service which she experienced as a new Mum aged 18 and then the support she received through Shared Lives via the Gwynedd Adult Placement scheme.

My OLD life

catherine-watchorn

My name is Catherine and I am 27 years old. I am here to tell you how my life has changed over the past 9 years…

The story starts when I was in a mother and baby placement when I was 18 years old.

The plan was that the placement would support me to learn new skills to enable me to live independently and be better equipped to look after my Son.

THIS DID NOT HAPPEN. The Family that I was living with made me feel that I was not a good mother, nor was I able to take care of myself. They used to write things about me every day but did not tell me what they were writing. I lost all my confidence I also lost a lot of Weight. I went down to six stones while I was living there. I was not supported to use the washing machine, tumble dryer, learn to cook; they didn’t take me shopping so when I went to the shops I would just waste my money. I asked for help, they told me that they are not there to help me they are there to report back to social services about how I was doing.  I felt so low that I didn’t take any pride in myself. I was also suffering from Depression. I had an appointee looking after my money so I didn’t know how much money I had. I felt that they had taken over my life. I was told that I didn’t need an advocate so I didn’t have anyone to support me at this very difficult time in my life. I was not treated as part of the family.

I felt that they saw the learning disability and not the person that just needed a little help.

I feel that the lack of support I received contributed to my son being taken away from me and adopted.

When it was time for me to move on I was asked if I wanted to go to an adult placement. I was a bit worried that it would be just the same, as I didn’t know what an adult placement would be like.

My NEW life

When I first came to live in an adult placement I didn’t know how to take care of myself. I had no friends. I didn’t have a job. Liz sat down with me and we made a plan together. Liz asked me what things I would like her to help me with. This made me feel happy as I felt that someone was asking me what I wanted.  We made a wish list. Liz supported me to learn how to do things. I took control of my money so no longer needed an appointee, I just need some support from Liz now. I learnt how to use the washing machine, tumble dryer, microwave; I’m able to make myself meals with support. I now go shopping on my own. I can cut the grass and plant things in the garden. I go to the hairdresser and take care of how I look. I keep my bedroom tidy. We have two Dogs that I help to look after.  I have friends, I go to the cinema, Pub, Clubs, foreign holidays with Liz and the rest of the family. I can do lots of thing now that I couldn’t do before. I don’t suffer from depression anymore, but I do feel low sometimes. My confidence has grown.  I still need support from Liz emotionally and to make some decisions, but she only gives it to me when I need it. I feel that I am in control of my life now.

I now have two Jobs; I work for Barod doing easy ready for people with a learning disability. I am also a member of the LDAG. I am the first person from north wales to be a member, which I am very proud of. I am supported by NWAAA Advocacy to attend these meeting.  I also sit on the panel for all Wales people first in Cardiff Advocacy also support me to do this. I am so glad I have got a family like Liz, she is the best carer I could ask for. Liz has helped me to be the person I am today. I don’t know where I would be now without adult placement. I am happy I have Liz in my life because she been helpful and kind.  The help I have from NWAAA has made a big difference in my life also.

Adult placement has changed my life and I really believe adult placement should also become a mother and baby placement. As I feel that if people are given a proper chance they can like me become a person in their own right and not just a person with a learning disability I feel an equal in my Home this is something that is missing for lots of people with a learning disability.

The help I get from Liz is called active support.

This approach has helped me to develop myself and build new relationships, and skills that are necessary to be as independent as possible. Active support has given me the right level of support, to enable me to engage in the support that has been offered to me. This has helped me to build on small step by step goals.

When Lowri comes to visit me I feel proud that I can tell her how well I am doing!

I hope I have shown you what a difference good support and bad support can make to a person’s life.

Bad support was life changing for me, but now with the support from Liz and adult placement I am rebuilding my life again. I do feel that without the support I get now, I could not do all these things. I do feel that I have some way to go yet but, I will move on to somewhere new in the future. I will use the skills and confidence I have gained through adult placement to help myself.

By Catherine Watchorn 3.11.15

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