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Unique type of social care changes the lives of two women

Shared Lives is a unique caring arrangement that enables people with a learning or physical disability, mental ill-health, dementia or other ongoing needs, to share their carer’s home and family life.

Adele Henshaw and Esther Parry love nothing more than indulging in their hobbies of arts and crafts and getting out and about.

Esther, aged 36, and Adele, aged 44, have lived together in Skelmersdale for six years. These women struggle to live independently because of their disabilities. However, they are able to enjoy full and active lives together as a family thanks to Margaret Long.

Margaret is a Shared Lives carer with Lancashire County Council and shares her home with Esther and Adele. Shared Lives is a unique caring arrangement.

It enables more than 14,000 people across Britain with a learning or physical disability, mental ill health, dementia or other ongoing needs, to share their carer’s home and family life.

Carers also support with a range of tasks, such as cooking and cleaning, supporting with employment and education and arranging holidays and trips out. June 14 sees the start of Shared Lives Week and Margaret, who has been a carer for 14 years, wants to raise awareness of the scheme.

She said: ‘When you say you’ve got someone living with you with learning disabilities, people just can’t get their heads around that because lots of people live in supportive living, with their parents, or in a care home. And I think that’s not for everyone.

‘I think this is definitely a better environment for people to live happily in many cases. They can still be independent as much as they are able to.

‘For anyone who wants a more flexible paid way of life, where you can be yourself and encourage someone else to flourish, I’d say find out about becoming a Shared Lives carer. Shared Lives Week is the perfect time to contact the county council to find out more.’

silhouette photo of five person walking on seashore during golden hour

Margaret, Adele and Esther are posting their stories on the Shared Lives Plus Twitter pages to promote the scheme next week. Adele and Esther feel they have benefited from the scheme.

Adele said: ‘If you struggle with something, Margaret is always there to help you. If you need any help, or if there’s anything bothering you, she’s always there.

‘If it wasn’t for Margaret, I’d have been in a bad place and I didn’t want that. I didn’t want it at all. She helped me a lot, including helping me to lose weight.

‘I enjoy Shared Lives because you live with a carer. It’s always nice to live in a family. It’s like a second family. I feel great and have a boyfriend now too.’

Esther said: ‘Before Shared Lives I was living in a flat on my own and I wasn’t coping. I wasn’t paying my bills on time. I was getting in debt.

‘I was twenty stone when I met Margaret. She showed me what to eat and what not to eat. She helps me discover new hobbies.

‘We bought a sticker by numbers book. I was shocked at myself thinking I’m not normally patient, but when I got into it, I began to really enjoy it. I love the different activities we get involved in.’

Lancashire County Council’s Shared Lives scheme has been recognised as ‘Outstanding’ by the Care Quality Commission. Cllr Graham Gooch, cabinet member for adult social care, said: ‘Esther, Adele and Margaret’s story shows just what Shared Lives is all about.

‘This type of care is the best option for so many people. People can stay healthier and live more independently for longer and they are less likely to have to go into residential care.

‘The problem is that a lot of people don’t understand what Shared Lives is. You don’t need a background in care to be a Shared Lives carer. You get expenses paid and all the help, support, and training you need from Lancashire County Council and Shared Lives Plus.

‘If you’re interested in becoming a carer, give our team a call.’

Esther and Adele will be sharing their story on Twitter next week. Follow @SharedLivesPlus to see what they have to say.

For more information about Shared Lives and becoming a carer, visit our Shared Lives Page For more information about Shared Lives Week and Shared Lives Plus, visit the Shared Lives Plus website.

Photo Credit – Kevin Delvecchio

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