Tracey recently shared coffee and cake with families who open up their homes to vulnerable adults in Kent to find out more about Kent County Council’s Shared Lives scheme.
The hosts and service users chatted to Tracey at Aylesford Village Community Centre on Monday. Tracey was keen to find out more about what it means to share your home with someone who needs support with everyday life, whether it is learning new skills, for example, getting out and about or being able to do activities they enjoy.
KCC’s Shared Lives service provides short breaks, day care support and longer term support accommodation to older people and people living with disabilities, mental health needs and dementia in the host family’s own home. Hosts are paid and are fully trained and supported by the service.
Sarah Phillips, 32, has just been approved as a Shared Lives host and attended the event with her daughter Star, one. She said:
“My mum’s been a Shared Lives host for the past 11 years, so I’ve grown up in that environment. One day, I just thought, ‘it’s time for me, now’. It’s all I’ve ever known and since I’ve had my own daughter, I wanted to start caring for others as well.
“You’ve got to be a caring person, understanding and want to give a part of your life up to nurture and help others to achieve their own goals.
“It’s very rewarding and if you have that caring side in you, which most people have, I would say, ‘don’t be scared’ because you can do it and you’ll get a lot out of it and the training is really good. It makes me happy helping people, even if it is teaching them something as small as putting a bit of lipstick on. I love it.”
Danielle Caddick, 22, has learning disabilities and has been living with host Linda Williams, 66, for four years. Danielle said it has changed her life. She said:
“I live with my carer Lin and it’s really good. I used to go to college and now I’ve found a place to work at a children’s play centre. Lin has helped me get more confident. When I first came to live with Lin, I was scared, but now I’ve really come out of my shell and I’m more confident that I’ve ever been.
“It’s been really amazing – I’ve learned so much. I think being a Shared Lives host is a really good opportunity for people.”
After meeting with hosts and service users, Tracey said that she was impressed by what she had heard from those involved in the scheme.
She said: “Shared Lives gives people the opportunity to have a sense of independent living while also being cared for and it’s clear that it has a real benefit for the users – those younger users who, for example might need help in learning skills like how to budget and also older people who maybe feel lonely and isolated have someone around them.
”It’s an interesting project and I wanted to learn more about it. Coming here today has given me a real insight into what Shared Lives does and how it benefits the community and it’s certainly something I’ll be promoting to my constituents.”
Kent County Council is looking for more people to take on this rewarding role and become Shared Lives hosts. Hosts need to be committed, have a spare room if providing overnight placements and the ability to provide a supportive and friendly environment. They receive regular support through the service, ongoing training and supervision.
To find out more about becoming a Shared Lives host, or to find out more about how to use the service, visit www.kent.gov.uk/sharedlives or call 01233 652401.