Gary and Kim, MacIntyre Shared Lives carers from Bedfordshire, share their experience supporting 19-year-old Joshua and their advice for anyone interested in becoming a Shared Lives carer.
Shared Lives is the little known alternative to home care and care homes for disabled adults and older people. It is used by around 12,000 people in the UK and is available in nearly every area.
Shared Lives aims to enable people with a disability to experience ordinary life, with real relationships, rather than receive a service.
Shared Lives carers are paid in a similar way to foster carers in that they are self-employed and are not taxed on their earnings. They are not paid by the hour and there is no “clocking on and clocking off”. In Shared Lives, everyone gets to contribute to real relationships and the goal is ordinary family life.
Meet Gary, Kim and Joshua
"We are Gary, Kim and Joshua. Joshua has lived with us since he was 5 years old, he is now 19. We have fostered many children over the years and have welcomed them into our home. Joshua has also been a part of that journey with us. We became Shared Lives Carers at the beginning of last year.
Our home is Joshua’s home. Our family is Joshua’s family. We have enjoyed many experiences together including visiting seaside holidays, such as Cornwall, Hastings and Eastbourne. .
Joshua loves shopping on eBay, he enjoys visiting the local shops and loves a good bargain in B&M. Joshua is a huge fan of Christmas, he enjoys taking us round the garden centres looking for anything Christmassy!
Joshua is enrolled in a college placement fulltime, which will allow him to develop his life skills."
How do you support Joshua?
"We support Joshua in every way we can, but we also treat Joshua as the older teenager he is. We support him in making decisions he needs support with, but also allow him to be independent in daily activities. When we see Joshua making these choices, we all witness the results and it is so rewarding.
We have always supported children, through our profession as foster carers and now our role as Shared Lives Carers. We feel our relevant knowledge and skills allows us to support Joshua’s needs more effectively through his transition from childhood to adulthood.
We are continuously involved in training, reading and learning new ways to continue Joshua’s support and development."
What would you say the biggest challenges are around your role?
"Sleep! We struggle with Joshua’s sleeping but we work together in patterns to support him and ensure him he continues to feel safe and comfortable. We also have to define a work-life balance. Even though this is our job as a carer to support Joshua, we also have to define that he is our son and he considers us as his Mum and Dad."
What would your advice be to somebody interested in becoming a Shared Lives carer?
"It is daunting but rewarding! If you have room in your heart to love and care for somebody then do it! Take the step, it is astonishing to grow to love somebody and make a difference”.