The highlight of my week

This guest blog is a story from Derby Shared Lives scheme about how a team of Shared Lives carers can work with an individual who needs particularly complex support to live well. Thanks to Derby and my colleague Hannah for her input:

Rose loves horse-riding, swimming, going for a coffee and socialising. Going to church has been a big feature in her life.

Rose spent over 20 years living in a residential placement and has a complex and profound learning disability, very limited verbal communication and is in some ways a very vulnerable young woman. Historically, Rose was labelled ‘challenging’. It was clear she needed several Shared Lives carers for different support needs.

Rose now lives with Maxine, and has support from four other Shared Lives carers who provide day support and overnight breaks for Maxine, who is a Shared Lives carer is Derby.

It was the smile that won Maxine over. Introductions continued for around 6 months, an afternoon, a full day, and then two days a week. These were maintained when Rose went from hospital to a respite provider- it was too soon to attempt a move straight to Maxine’s. Rose eventually had an overnight at Maxine’s and this went really well. Training and countless meetings for the Shared Lives carers, including Rose’s mum and family, were arranged and everything went very well. For several months now, Rose has had possibly the most settled and community-based support of her life. At present, they have a great connection and understanding of one another, and Rose is now able to share her everyday life and activities with Maxine which was unimaginable two years ago.

Heather is one of the Shared Lives carers who supports Rose in the day. She says, “My friend is a child minder and she lives over the road. When Rose comes on a Tuesday and Friday, Susan always pops over for an hour and Rose loves to spend time with the children… Rose absolutely loves children…”

Another Shared Lives carer, Julie, says: “It’s the highlight of my week. I really look forward to Rose coming here. I just get so much from it, so much in return.”

Monica takes Rose horse-riding and this is her favourite time of her week. Monica also supports a gentleman long term. He and Rose have made a really valuable and genuine friendship. “They both love spending time together. It’s simply two people who have really clicked and enjoy each other’s company.”

Maxine has included Rose in all aspects of her household and truly shared her life: “My mum loves coming round and seeing Rose… Rose has made a big impact on the others at Church and is warmly welcomed each week and included in everything… Rose brings a richness to my life, has a real sense of humour and real character…”

Rose has now been at Maxine’s for almost one year. There have been ‘incidents’ and challenges, but everyone involved in Rose’s life agrees that this has been a real success. Rose is leading a ‘normal’ life in her community, with people in her life who care and take an active interest in her life, expand, develop and create fresh experience and opportunities. Rose’s social circle has grown significantly and will continue to do so.

Some arrangements can be challenging but not impossible. Shared Lives Worker, Dean Davis and Ordinary Lives Team Social Worker, Naomi Fearon, have worked very hard  ‘thinking outside the box’ to make this arrangement work for Rose so successfully.

Shared Lives in Derby

My colleague Angela Catley of our sister organisation, Community Catalysts has kindly written a guest blog on their work developing Shared Lives in Derby, which is part of the area’s transformation of institutional care for people labelled ‘complex’ or ‘challenging’:

A couple of months ago Community Catalysts was asked by Derby City Council to help build the capacity of its in-house Shared Lives scheme.

“In Shared Lives, an adult (16+) who needs support and/or accommodation becomes a regular visitor to, or moves in with, a registered Shared Lives carer. Together, they share family and community life…Uniquely, Shared Lives carers and those they care for are matched for compatibility and then develop real relationships, with the carer acting as ‘extended family’, so that someone can live at the heart of their community in a supportive family setting”

The council and their health colleagues are busy thinking how to provide compassionate, personal and responsive support to people labelled as having ‘complex needs’. They knew that people who use their existing Shared Lives service get amazing outcomes and wondered whether, with some work, similar outcomes could be achieved for more and different people.

So much potential.

The existing scheme already has procedures and systems that govern the way it recruits, trains, approves and monitors its Shared Lives carers; matches carers with people who need support and ensures the resulting arrangements work well for everyone. What the council wanted from Community Catalysts was help to consider how these existing systems might need to change to make the service more accessible and tailored to people with much more complex needs.

Every individual is just that…an individual…much much more than a sum of their labels and experiences of serviceland. That said the folks we would love to welcome into the world of Shared Lives are well labelled with tags like ‘forensic history’, ‘sectioned’, profound disability’ and ‘challenging’. These tags hide the individual in a way that feels uncomfortable to us all right now but hopefully as we start to make the potential a reality the people will emerge from behind the labels.

To try and help the scheme build its capacity and to begin to offer a more specialist Shared Lives services we know we need to consider how we differentiate between existing Shared Lives carers and those with more specialist knowledge and skills (all without creating tension or divisions). We are busy thinking about Continue reading