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Martin, Liz & Stephen

Martin & Liz are Short Break carers based in South Gloucestershire. They support Martin's father and their son Stephen, who has severe learning disabilities and autism. Around 10 years ago Stephen was at a residential college and he wasn’t coping living with other people. At that point Martin and Liz decided to move Stephen into a Shared Lives arrangement. Stephen would stay with them overnight and for Shared Days. Through exploring Shared Lives like this Martin and Liz saw that Stephen was happy socialising with other adults with additional needs. Which is when they started the process of becoming Shared Lives carers themselves, they now offer Shared Days and Short Breaks.

How did you become Shared Lives carers?

Martin: Stephen had such a good experience in Shared Lives and he had gotten on so well with someone with Downs Syndrome, so we thought that we could have someone as well.

A real incentive to do this was so that Stephen could get used to living with someone. We want to find a few people he can cope with living with.  Hopefully we can get to the point where we set up a supported living permanent arrangement for where he’s living more independently in his own place.  

Being a full-time Shared Lives carers doesn't suit us because we’re looking after Stephen and caring for parents. Also, we wanted flexibility so family overseas could come and visit. But we felt we could provide respite care to other carers.

How did you hear about Shared Lives?

Martin: I’m a carer rep on a learning disability partnership board - so I found out about Shared Lives through my networks.

How is Shared Lives different from other styles of care?

Martin: From 11 he was at a special school and was fine there (day school). At residential college he was in mixed flats and they all had different needs. Some of them were aggressive. He started hitting himself because he was so stressed. When in Stephen was in Shared Lives he didn’t become stressed at all. They took an interest in Stephen and it was a relaxed environment.

The people he was with were the main difference, the unpredictability of some of the people in residential was just too challenging for Stephen.

Shared Lives has given us the chance to prepare Stephen for a more independent future.

Through Shared Lives we’ve been able to find people that Stephen could live with on a long term basis in the future. It’s given us the chance to meet other people around in similar situations that could live in a Shared Lives environment. Stephen could live in a Shared Lives environment full time in the future. He’s got used to coping with people with mild behaviour issues. Which has made us feel more hopeful for Stephen’s future. Shared Lives has given us the chance to prepare Stephen for a more independent future.

For us, it’s not about income. 

How would you describe Shared Lives?

Martin: It’s a safe home environment for somebody that needs additional needs and support. Either on a short-term basis or long-term basis.

For us, it’s not about income. 

What pieces of advice would you offer to new Shared Lives carers?

  1. Think carefully about your commitments and what you’re able to give
  2. Think of it as something that you can experience in your life
  3. Think outside the box, it’s worth exploring
  4. There’s lots of training and process involved - the process was long but worth the wait

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