A new family are set to spend their first Christmas together this year thanks to an adult social care initiative in Stoke-on-Trent.
Twenty-three-year-old Ashleigh moved in permanently with Nikki and her partner Vikki earlier this autumn. They have since being enjoying spending time together as a family thanks to Shared Lives Stoke-on-Trent. They are the first long-term placement for the service, which has a number of other families providing short-term and respite care.
Shared Lives promotes independence for adults who need support and offers them the chance to be part of a family. It’s a service in which people, who need support to live their lives to the full, such as those with learning disabilities, are matched with compatible Shared Lives carers and families who will support them in their family and community life.
Couple Nikki and Vikki moved to Stoke-on-Trent from Manchester. They originally found out about the scheme through a friend who is also a Shared Lives carer.
Nikki, who has been in a number of job roles including in the education sector, is Ashleigh’s main Shared Lives carer.
She said: “When we moved from Manchester to Stoke-on-Trent, we noticed on the council’s website that Shared Lives was launching in the city. We knew how well a friend of ours had gotten on with the scheme in Manchester and so we registered our interest and went along to one of the drop in events.
“Almost 12 months on, Ashleigh moved in with us in September. It hasn’t been easy and there will be more challenges ahead but without a doubt the rewards are completely worth it.
“Since moving in with us, Ashleigh has come on leaps and bounds. She is more independent and we are learning so much from her.
It’s great to be in the Shared Lives community – it’s like being a part of a big family. I would encourage anybody thinking about going into a caring role or looking for a new career to look into Shared Lives. It really is life-changing.”
Vikki, who also works part-time for the NHS, said:
“The Shared Lives team have been fantastic. They have supported us from day one – through all of the training, panels and the all-important matching process. They’re always at the end of the phone if we need anything – even if it’s just for a chat.
“Ashleigh has become part of our family – even though it has only been a few months, it’s hard to imagine life without her.”
Ashleigh said: “I enjoy living with Nikki and Vikki. My bedroom is nice, it has lots of nice new furniture and it’s very cosy. I am learning new skills. I have been travelling to work on the bus by myself and I have learned to use the new dish washer. Soon I’m going to learn how to cook. Nikki takes me to my activities – I play basketball and go on park runs. I like doing races – I did the Liverpool Scouse 5k and won a medal.
“Shared Lives has changed my life. It has given me a family life and more control over my life. I can do the things that I like to do and am more involved on decisions about my life.”
Councillor Ann James, deputy leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council and cabinet member for health and adult social care said: “It’s brilliant to hear how well Ashleigh is settling in with Nikki and Vikki. I hope they have a lovely first Christmas together. They are one of many examples of Shared Lives families across the UK of how both carers and individuals can benefit from Shared Lives. I’d also like to thank all of our Shared Lives families for the great work that they do and wish them all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
“Shared Lives is a unique care service in that it is person-centred and makes a real difference to carers and the individuals. It allows individuals to develop vital skills and enjoy a full life, and it helps carers to manage the person’s care effectively. Most importantly, it allows people and families to form long-lasting relationships.”
“I would urge anybody interested in a caring role to look into the benefits Shared Lives can bring.”
Shared Lives have a dedicated carer support team for all carer members with resources such as training, information, advice and one-to-one support.
There are also opportunities for carers and families to meet and speak to others who are a part of the scheme, through Shared Lives carers groups within local areas and national carer events.
Shared Lives scheme
Call the Shared Lives team on 01782 235000.
Email the Shared Lives team
Call the press office on 01782 232395 (journalists only).