Ten years ago MacIntyre decided to explore another way of providing support to people and to set up a Shared Lives scheme in Warrington. We had lots of ideas, positivity and support but weren’t sure where the journey would take us and if our ideas of trying to be responsive and creative would work. Ten years later… we are still here. Much love, happiness and tears to learn from. Memories made, reciprocity achieved, challenges worked through and good lives lived.
Covid, whilst still so present, seems like a strange dream. Isolating, keeping safe and following the rules. People and carers not seeing their own families to keep each other safe. Shared Lives carers taking risks supporting people who were Covid positive without knowing the implications for themselves. At a time when most people were keeping their doors shut, Shared Lives carers have supported people into their homes who have become homeless or needed a place to stay at short notice. One person was rescued from a flood by the fire service and his Shared Lives carer. Others were offered a home when their own family member became ill. Shared Lives carers have been flexible and responsive and at times adapted to being an emergency service responding with compassion and practical support. A place to stay and people who care.
Relating the “Head, Heart and Hands” Social Pedagogy model with Shared Lives it’s the “heart” that is the driving factor, the reason people get involved. We would like to think the scheme adds to the “head”, matching, checking, helping to make things right and there when things go wrong. And it’s the “hands”, the doing, that is so key to being a dynamic, strengths based scheme. Throughout, when we have spoken to our Shared Lives carers they have said, “This is what we are doing.”
We are baking dog biscuits to share with dogs walking past. We are doing our exercises on Zoom for people to join in and see each other. We are volunteering at a local food bank. We are doing a virtual Friday night disco. We are looking after a friends horse three days a week. We are trying meditation. We are doing the garden. We are baking. We have purpose. We are keeping connected. Some of our carers and people they support tried to do 21 days abundance challenge to think about inspiration, gratitude and how when you give, you get. When a person we support went to drop some shopping off for an older person, she gave her a diamond art picture. Abundance! Another person did a sponsored walk for Cancer Research and when her carer shared that she loved Eddie Stobart they presented her with a framed picture of her named lorry! Abundance!
And it’s taken a whole lot of trust from our local authority who have worked alongside us to shape and develop the service. Social workers who have taken a chance introducing people to us wanting “more than a service” and understanding that we don’t offer three calls a day and that sometimes it’s not black and white - but that the potential benefits are worth working out together.
Shared Lives offers opportunities for reciprocity and relationships, where people can feel part of something. The lyrics of Rina Sawayana and Elton John’s song “Chosen Family” have real parallels with Shared Lives. We match people who “Don’t share genes or a last name”, who take a chance and find that you “Don’t have to be related to relate”. Friendships and purpose, giving and getting. It’s not taken the pandemic or our ten year anniversary to help us appreciate our Shared Lives carers or know what a brilliant model Shared Lives offers; but it’s helped us to reflect on it in a new light.
THANK YOU to our MacIntyre Shared Lives carers and the people we support. You inspire us every day.