‘She’s my angel’ – Could you be a Shared Lives Carer?

Individuals, couples and families are being asked to step forward to support adults with additional needs across Wirral.

Shared Lives, a council-run service, matches carers with people who need support. That support can be living in the carer’s home or elsewhere – whatever works best for each situation.

During Shared Lives Week, which runs from 24-28 June, the council is seeking more people from all walks of life to become carers.

We spoke to Lesley Clarke, a Shared Lives Carer from Higher Bebington and Tora, the young adult she cares for, to learn a bit more about their story.

Tora moved in with Lesley when she was 10 years old, initially as a foster care placement. When Tora was approaching her 18th birthday, the pair had some decisions to make. 

Lesley, who is an experienced foster carer, said, “[When a child reaches 18]…Normally from fostering you would go to an independent living arrangement, but that wouldn’t have worked for Tora. So, as she was turning 18 it was about finding what’s out there.”

Tora has mobility issues and learning difficulties that would make living on her own difficult. 

Lesley and Tora found Shared Lives to be their ideal solution after being referred by Tora’s PA – a personal assistant employed to help Tora.

Tora, now 18, continues to live with and be cared for by Lesley, who gets support and advice from the service itself.

Tora said, “Lesley is honestly my angel – she helps me to figure out things like finances, she cooks for me and helps me in all sorts of ways, especially at the moment as I am recovering from surgery.

“She’s crackers with the amount of kids she’s supported. But I love being around them and helping her too.”

For Lesley, becoming a Shared Lives carer wasn’t a huge change in her life as she had already fostered, but it was still a learning experience.

Lesley said, “Going from children’s services to adults’ was so different. Tora’s life hadn’t changed, her circumstances hadn’t changed. She still needed support but suddenly she was an adult. 

“There were new things we had to think about like helping Tora apply for universal credit – we didn’t have a clue! The service supports with things like that.

“I’m mindful of the fact that Tora is of an age where she’s making her own decisions and I am encouraging her to do so.”

So what would the pair say to others thinking about accessing support, or becoming a carer with, Shared Lives?

Tora said, “I would say get in touch. If that young person has been in foster care and they want to stay where they are – they can go through Shared Lives and stay in one place and have that consistency like me and Lesley.”

Lesley said, “It’s different for me as I knew Tora and the support she needed. But I would recommend anyone thinking about opening their home to do it.

“It provides friendship, a good relationship. We go on holidays, we’re always at the cinema. We do everything together especially since she’s been off college recovering, we’ve been joined at the hip!

“Tora has been with us since she was 10. I have six grandkids too, two boys of my own who are now 44 and 46 who have their own families and I’ve been fostering for 20 years. She has grown up as a part of our family and she will continue to be, even if she goes off and has a family of her own in the future.”

For Tora, the future looks positive – thanks in part to the support she gets from her Shared Lives carer, Lesley.

Tora said, “Once I’ve recovered from my surgery I’ll be back at college – hopefully in September.

“If I hadn’t come to Lesley, my life would’ve been upside down. Lesley means everything to me. She helps steer me in the right direction.”

Shared Lives is a CQC registered service that helps a wide range of people who need support to live independent lives, including:

  • adults with learning disabilities
  • adults with autism
  • adults who experience mental health problems
  • people with physical disability
  • people with sensory impairment
  • older people including people with dementia
  • young adults transitioning from Children’s Services

Shared Lives placements can be long or short term, short breaks only or day support.

If you think you could benefit from support with a Shared Lives carer, or you might like to become one, you can:

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