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The Secret of Shared Lives

Written by Joyce Stubbs – Parent of Kirsty Stubbs who moved in to live with a Hertfordshire Shared Lives family in February 2021.

Actually, Shared Lives should not be a secret at all! For many years Shared Lives has been successfully operating in the care sector for some 10,000 clients in all 4 countries of the UK. Shared Lives is a care and support service which is for people aged 18+ who want to live independently in their community with the support of a family and community network. It is an alternative to supported living or residential care. Shared Lives support people from all walks of life. People can visit or move in with a Shared Lives carer and their family, when they are looking for support during a life change:

  • So they can leave hospital after treatment
  • If they are getting older and need an extra hand for daily tasks
  • If they are a young person leaving care
  • To rebuild their life after domestic abuse or modern slavery
  • or for longer term support:

All they need is a family experienced in care, but how many of us know Shared Lives are even there?

Shared Lives families, who usually have a professional background working in the care sector, are carefully selected, vetted and trained. Once they have been fully approved at an independent panel, the accommodation they have to offer is checked out and adapted as required to suit the needs of the prospective adult to be cared for. Usually this person visits the family for a short trial period to assess mutual compatibility, also with the rest of the family. During the pandemic this was not meant to be for Kirsty, however, and all concerned had to adapt. Regular Skype calls were set up to help the Shared Lives family get to know their future family member. In addition, the Shared Lives family took in an adult on respite care, which during 2020 might have lasted for anything up to a year!

But the Shared Lives secret should be made widely known – amongst health and social services professionals, care sector workers, the DWP, adult disability teams, Guide Dogs, support charities, such as Headway (for head injury survivors) and many more. Since my own adult daughter, a head injury survivor, moved to her wonderful new Shared Lives family in February 2021, she has been able to enjoy family meals, movie nights, helping the children with their spelling, listening to their bickering and simply being accepted and valued for the person she now is since her

accident. Working with the family is a pleasure, most especially since the family has now expanded to include a new-born baby girl, as in the picture below.

  • Have a learning or physical disability
  • Experience dementia
  • Mental ill health
  • Or want to live with your child while needing care yourself.

A good secret, like Shared Lives, really should remain a secret no longer. Kind, caring families with appropriate experience and a suitable spare room are out there, as are countless adults with particular needs. So please spread the word so that more people can be looked after by those who know how to care. For more information, please contact SharedLivesHertfordshire@hertfordshire.gov.uk or info@sharedlivesplus.org.uk or visit the website Sharing a home (Shared Lives) | Hertfordshire County Council.