This week Sheffield is celebrating the work of its ‘Shared Lives’ carers and looking for 20 more people this year who can provide care in their family homes to adults who have support needs.

‘Shared Lives’ is an initiative that focuses on helping people stay in their communities and keep existing friendships rather than moving into residential care and the results are clear to see. Those who live in a family environment feel more settled, their confidence and independence increases and they feel more valued too.

Shared Lives carers come from all walks of life and all types of home and there is no need for carers to have qualifications or experience. They care for people who may need to be accompanied to appointments, transported to and from leisure activities, work/ college, holidays, outings and entertainment, help with managing finances and medication or someone to speak on their behalf (if they struggle to do so themselves).

Michael and his wife cared for her mum for 15 years before she died at the age of 98. After this they began thinking about the opportunities there are around caring; Michael had previously been a careers adviser but was interested in becoming a professional carer.

“We applied and were soon visited by a person from the Shared Lives team who checked that we had at least one spare room and that our house was of a safe standard. We happen to have three spare rooms in our house so we are able to care for more than one person, but to be a carer you only need one spare room.”

“Since May we have looked after two people; one person for a weekend and the other two people for a couple of weeks (one of whom is pretty independent) whilst their long-term carers take a holiday. Some people you look after have personal care needs, others just need you to be with them when they are out of the house or attending appointments.”

“Our main aim is for everyone who stays with us to have a fulfilling time of rest and recuperation; a comfortable place to relax. After mealtimes when you get a heartfelt ‘thank you’ and comments like ‘I like it here’ it’s very motivating. An unprovoked positive reaction is everything really.”

Michael said that their aspiration would be to combine these respite placements with permanent placements:

“Having an ongoing and sustained relationship with a person who needs us over months and years would be so rewarding too. What we’ve done so far has already been an enjoyable learning experience for us. It’s satisfying and meaningful; there’s a need out there and we’re meeting that need.

“What I would say to anyone who is thinking of becoming a Shared Lives carer is to remember that the key to it is about simply creating a relationship with another person and we all do that all the time. That’s all you really need to be able to; nurture a short or longer term relationship with another person.”

In Sheffield there are 25 long term Shared Lives carers, 28 short break carers and 20 day support carers supporting 89 placements, but there is always a need for more Shared Lives carers.

Councillor George Lindars-Hammond, Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care said: “I am hugely grateful for the invaluable work that our Shared Lives carers do in the city. They make such a difference to the lives of adults with support needs by providing a home to live in that is caring, safe and welcoming.”

Carers receive weekly payments of a fixed amount (and self-employed carers also benefit from preferential tax arrangements), Shared Lives carers get paid weekly ranging from £8.21 per hour for day support, £72 per night for short breaks and between £400 – £450 per week for long term support. They also receive full training and support.

There is more information at www.sheffield.gov.uk/sharedlives for those interested in becoming Shared Lives carers. The Shared Lives team also provides information about the different types of caring opportunities and the types of support offered on 0114 2735275.