Shared Lives has inspired James and Andy to start a new community project connecting people in their community
“It makes me feel happy when I help other people. I feel ‘like everybody else’ when I do work for Local Social, Shared Lives Plus and join local clubs like Karate. It’s good to do things for myself.”
Shared Lives carer, Andy Cooke and James who he supports through Shared Lives, have started a project called ‘Local Social’ to connect people in their community.
James has lived with Andy since 2010, before he came to Shared Lives James lived in residential care.
James and Andy were inspired to start the community project after Andy enquired about enrolling James on a befriending scheme in their community.
Shared Lives carer, Andy Cooke told us: “I was told there was a three year waiting list! This wasn’t right and when I researched, I found there were 80 people who had asked for a befriender- so I and James came up with the idea of connecting people up in our community for friendship. We did some more research, talked to lots of people and set up ourselves as Local Social CIC. Karin, who does not use Shared Lives services, but in many ways is just like James, is the other Director.”
James and Andy do a lot of work with Shared Lives and they saw this as an opportunity to use their experience to help people in the community connect and build friendships.
James says: “It is about choosing the things that I like doing and going to places I want to go to. Being able to make decisions for myself, with some help if needed. Living where I want to, in a house that I choose and a life that is friendly and also improves my health. Choosing and making new friends is very important to me and I have been able to do this with Shared Lives, and now I am helping other people through Local Social.”
When Andy first met James he asked what he wanted out of life, James’ reply was “more friends and a paid job.” Andy supports James to work towards achieving these goals. Local Social has been a great way for them both to work together.
Andy: “Yep. Until then been in specialist residential care. 40 years old in 2010Yep. Until then been in specialist residential care. 40 years old in 2010There was a need for Local Social, so many organisations were running trips, often a long way away- but not getting people to connect. People like James were just waiting for the next trip and sometimes doing things that they didn’t want to do. I had done a lot of work on building community capacity and I am convinced that this is the way forward. We began to trial it with the Shared Lives group. People like James just need a bit of help to get social connections going and then have some input themselves. Basically, everyone we spoke to thought the idea was great!”
Andy says that the inspiration to start Local Social was James, he said: “He had been in specialist residential care, just about all his life, and it was what he needed. The work we have done with Shared Lives Plus at conferences and public speaking has given us both confidence. James has benefitted enormously in confidence, self- esteem and being valued.”
Andy’s role with the project is to come up with ideas, distribute information and to spread the word about Local Social. James is the ‘expert with experience’ as he understands what it can feel like to ‘need help, to be lonely and bored’ he knows about ‘social care’ which is so important for the Local Social project. James says the thing he enjoys most about being a part of Local Social is ‘being involved to help people.’
James has had a really positive transformation since he joined Shared Lives and met Andy, going from institutionalised life to building a life in the community- his health has improved significantly.
Andy said: “James did it himself but he just needed a bit of help along the way from Shared Lives.”
The project is only just beginning but James and Andy hope it will have an impact on their local community and others in the future.
Everyone at Shared Lives wishes them the best of luck on their adventure.