Read how couple Amy and Claire developed from fostering children to welcoming adults with learning disabilities into their home, as part of Shared Lives.
After giving a presentation to the Ageing Better LGBT Housing Group at Birmingham LGBT Centre, CVT Shared Lives (part of the national charity, Camphill Village Trust) are keen to explore the possibility of recruiting Shared Lives Carers from within the LGBT communities, primarily across Dudley, but also the surrounding the Black Country/West Midlands area.
As a starting point, Shared Lives is sometimes described as ‘foster care for adults with additional and complex needs’, but there is so much more to the role. As a Shared Lives Carer, you are ‘carefully matched’ to support a person from within your own home, to develop the practical skills to have greater independence, encourage new social networks, build confidence and lead the same ordinary domestic life at the heart of the community as you and I. When someone comes to stay on either a long-term, short-break or day-support basis, this is called an ‘Arrangement’. You can have a maximum of three people living/staying with you at any one time. Shared Lives Carers are passionate and dedicated about their work and is why the model is such a powerful and effective form of care, creating a real sense of belonging for all those involved.
Shared Lives Carers are DBS checked, require references, and are given comprehensive induction training. Carers are also paid according to the level of support they provide: up to £600 per week for the most complex of cases; as well as receive significant tax breaks due to their self-employed status. Potential new carers don’t need any experience or qualifications, just the right values, commitment and, of course, a spare bedroom. From start to finish, the assessment process usually takes up to 6 months. Once approved by an Independent Panel, ongoing advice is provided, so the Shared Lives Carer is supported to maintain the level of care required.
Head of Service for CVT Shared Lives, Dean Barnshaw said:
“We have just recently won the council contract to deliver a Shared Lives service throughout Dudley, so there is a constant need to recruit new Carers. We have been quite successful over the last year and already recruited eleven households to our expanding Scheme. Whilst gay Carers already work with us, we have never purposefully reached out to the local LGBT community to attract Carers, so we hope to generate lots of interest. We wish our new service to reflect the diversity of the wider community, so we can provide greater choice when it comes to the matching of Arrangements.”
Below is a conversation with Amy (47), who as a couple with Claire (46), have provided foster care for several years before moving over to Shared Lives. The family have requested that names are changed to protect the anonymity of those living in the household.
“We have a lovely home here in Dudley, which we have extended to give more living space for everyone. Both myself and Claire are from not too far away, so we still have our family and social networks to call on in the area. I’m a serving police officer, whilst Claire gave up her work as a civil servant at the Department of Working Pensions to become a full-time foster carer in 2011. Having originally met as friends fifteen years ago, our relationship blossomed into a civil partnership in 2006 and just a couple of years ago. we were married.
“I’ve had an interest in foster care all my life, for as a child I was bought up in the care system, so for me it’s been about being able to offer a quality of life to young people. I have also brought up my nephew from the age of three, following the tragic death of my sister. Claire is a mother and now grandmother, so when the children grew up and left home, it provided the opportunity to explore foster care. We’ve looked after a lot of children but over the last few years, we’ve been focused on supporting older teenagers. Initially, we were reticent, but we have really enjoyed the challenge of supporting young people who have been difficult to place for one reason or another.
“As our latest teenager approached adulthood, we were concerned that he would no longer be supported by the local authority, it was at this time we were made aware of Shared Lives. It seemed to be an ideal solution as he wished to remain with us and we were happy to continue supporting him. It felt like a natural progression, though also very different as he is now an adult. Rather than looking after him we are now encouraging him to be all that he can be and creating new opportunities to fulfil his potential in life.
“Both myself and Claire, would encourage anyone to explore the possibility of becoming Shared Lives Carers, it feels more relaxed than foster care and there is a raft of support and advice from the team. We still have a young man who is fostered, and he will remain with us for as long as he needs to, however, our focus is predominantly on Shared lives now. CVT as a Scheme is all still new, but we are impressed with what we have seen so far and very much feel part of something innovative. We appear to be the only same sex couple in the Scheme and are part of the local LGBT community, however, we have never been treated any differently, which is exactly as it should be.
“The young man who lives with us with us as a Shared Lives Arrangement, poses many challenges and no doubt there will be many more to come, but he also gives us a real sense of purpose and the knowledge that we are giving something back to the community. We feel we have a lot of life experiences to share and there is much to be gained in watching young adults become as independent as possible. I think we’ve found our calling.”
If you want to find out more about becoming a Shared Lives Carer, then please call the team on 01384 597264, visit: www.cvt.org.uk/sharedlives or follow us on Twitter: @CVTSharedLives.