See you in the New Year

At a time of year when many of us are focused on family events and our closest relationships – and when it can be most painful to lack those connections- this story from PossAbilities Shared Lives in the North West struck a chord with me:

‘Colin’ stays with his Shared Lives carer Molly a few times a year for short breaks, so when he asked her to help arrange his 40th Birthday party, it was quite a challenge, but Molly went all out to organise, food, music, invites and so on. Colin was overjoyed with the arrangements, but very disappointed when few guests turned up. Molly isn’t the giving up kind though, so she suggested they try again for his 41st. She rallied all his friends and work colleagues and kept contacting people until she was sure that lots would come this time. As a result, Colin enjoyed the best birthday party ever. Even better, he met his first girlfriend through this party: something he’d been dreaming of for many years.

That kind of life-changing event happens when you have someone on your side, who never gives up because they think of you as a friend or family member, not just a ‘service user’. Our challenge is to bring those kinds of relationships to thousands more people, through Shared Lives, Homeshare, and in 2020, new ways for people to share their homes and lives, and support each other.

It’s also lays down a challenge for the whole of social care: how do we move away from low-cost, low-longevity care and support ‘transactions’ between professionals and clients, and instead invest in caring relationships that people choose, that everyone contributes to, and that last the distance? This isn’t just a funding issue: parts of our sector have a 25% – 30% staff turnover rate, or services that lock people into the most expensive and least effective part of the system. There is a financial as well as a personal cost to those statistics; money which would be better spent recruiting the right people into the right roles and offering them the right combination of support and freedom to help people live good lives: independent but connected.

So as we look back at 2019 we are proud of the scale of our membership network’s achievements, reaching over 14,000 people:

  • In Wales there are over 1,100 people using Shared Lives – passing the 1,000 mark for the first time.
  • In Scotland the number of people using Shared Lives passed 500.
  • And the UK has over 1,000 Homeshare participants for the first time.

…and we’re proud of the quality and outcomes of that work: 98% good or outstanding from the latest CQC inspection figures, and nearly 90% of people completing our national outcomes tool saying that they are more socially connected through their Shared Lives support, as well as 83% saying it improved their physical health and 88% their emotional health.

We’re proud of the innovations we led this year including partnerships with:

And we’re also proud of how we approached our work: putting people with lived experience and front line workers in the lead wherever we can, such as our new Shared Lives Carer Champions, who are supporting other Shared Lives carers in their regions, who joined our Ambassadors with lived experience, to help us to reshape our work and do more on a peer-to-peer basis. We began to explore how to become a rights-based organisation with support from the British Institute of Human Rights and a domestic abuse aware organisation and team.

We’ve never had bigger challenges in social and health care, which means in 2020 we will need big ambitions when it comes to scale, results and the values we bring to our work. It’s not going to be an easy ride, but there are too many people who don’t have the lives, homes and relationships they dream of for us to give up, so I’ll be keeping Molly’s example in mind, whenever the coming year feels like a struggle!

I hope everyone enjoys a restful and well-earned break over Christmas and the New Year. We’ll see you in 2020.

As though he hadn’t been away

This is a guest blog from Claire Morphet of Rochdale’s PossAbilities CIC Shared Lives scheme. Claire writes:

In April of this year I was approached by Harold’s daughter Lynne who gave up her job as a college lecturer to look after her dad. She has had her house adapted to support his needs and completely changed her lifestyle. Previously, when Lynne had to go in hospital, Harold went for respite in a nursing home. Although Lynne had invested many hours researching and visiting nursing homes, when Harold returned home, she described her dad as ‘losing more of himself’. Now, Lynne’s wedding was planned, but she had intense fears of leaving her dad in a traditional respite setting again.

The first time I went out to visit Harold and Lynne, Lynne described her dad as she remembered him: an amazing dad and grandad who loved children. When Harold greeted me and gave me a little dance, I was moved by the kindness in his face.  Throughout the time I spent with Lynne and her dad the love that she feels for him was evident. We chatted about Shared Lives and Lynne immediately put her trust in us. What Lynne and I experienced over the next couple of months was one of the hardest professional journeys I have taken and possibly one of the toughest journeys Lynne has had to make. During these months Harold was introduced to two Shared Lives carers, but both had to withdraw from providing support following changes in their own circumstances. Matches do not always work out, but it’s our role to keep trying until the right match is found.

Karen lives very near to Harold and visits the same Tesco that Harold regularly enjoys to visit. Her husband, Vincent, remembered Harold as a former next door neighbour when he was a child. During the two weeks that Harold stayed with Karen, we kept in regular contact. Following the short break, Karen said, “It was an absolute Continue reading

Our family

Here is the second in what I hope might be a series of guest blogs from Shared Lives carers and their families talking about what it’s like for children growing up in a Shared Lives household. Many thanks indeed to PossAbilities Shared Lives scheme and to Jamie, Amanda, Jonathan and Thomas and their household for sharing their inspiring story:

Our Family

 

Our children Jonathan and Thomas have lived with people with learning disabilities permanently from infancy. Michael and John moved in with us in 1998 and shared all aspects of family life with the boys. Ranging from: shared swimming lessons, to boarding a plane for the first time on our family holiday.

Jonathan and Thomas viewed John as a third Granddad and watched his beloved Formula 1 racing with him each Sunday. John had had a stroke and had limited speech Jonathan and Thomas would always try to listen to his thoughts without causing John any frustration, putting the motto ‘we’ll get there in the end’ to practice. Sadly, John passed away in 2007 this was a difficult time for the boys but fond memories of him remain. They still watch Formula 1 each Sunday as a result of their interaction with him from such an early age.

Michael was more of a friend to Jonathan and Thomas as they had shared interests including: swimming, superheroes and trips to visit Bradley Bear in the lakes. Michael is still part of our family and despite the boys being aged 17 and 18 they are still referred to as ‘Kid’ by Michael, even when they are driving him for a burger.

Louise joined our family in 2003, initially she was joining temporarily for the weekend but refused to go home. Her mum and sister said she had made her choice and she has been a pivotal part of the family ever since. Louise doted on the boys from day one, and this was replicated by them. Unfortunately, Louise fell ill in 2013 and had to undergo chemotherapy. This had a profound effect on the boys as well as the rest of the family. Jonathan and Thomas were exceptional in aiding Louise throughout her time of need, from running for the ‘sick bowl’ to watching movies with her, always trying to make her smile. We must mention the close friends of the boys who provided fantastic support through this time. They often visited Louise, and were always enquiring over the phone how Louise was doing following trips to the hospital. They were thankfully able to attend the celebration of Louise overcoming her illness at our home. A fact which brought great joy to Louise, who had a wonderful evening.

Wendy came to live with us in 2008, though she was already a member of our extended family, living with the boys’ Gran, in her role Continue reading