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Hannah Cain

Hannah Cain

Our latest guest blog is from another one of our Ambassadors, Michael. In the past Michael was a part of a Shared Lives arrangement, he now lives independently. Michael’s blog is about his journey to living independently with help and support from Shared Lives along the way.

“In September 2011 I moved from fostering to Shared Lives, I lived with a Shared Lives carer 24/7 until 17th May 2012.

It was good because it helped me learn how to become independent. On the 17th May 2012, I moved from my Shared Lives arrangement into supported living, but I continued to use Shared Lives for day support

One Shared Lives carer that supported me was called Sharon. She supported me a few times a week to help me get out and about. We went to the Coronation street tour 3 times, Disney on Ice, shopping and the cinema. We had fun and many lovely times, Sharon even helped me with household tasks, like buying things for my home and supported me until October 2015. Shared Lives carer, Sharon was the best worker I've had since my mentor in 2007/08.  I still miss her but everything I’ve done and learned with Sharon will stay with me.

Coranation st Michael

I’ve had a few other Shared Lives carers in that time that didn’t always work out- but when I moved on 22 April 2015, I met Syvania. She supported me for 9 and a half hours and Sharon was also supporting me for 8 hours, Select Support Partnership were with me for 9 hours a week. I have many lovely memories with Syvania, she helped me to stop drinking fizzy pop and drink healthy fruit juice instead, and I only have fizzy pop when I’m having a mocktail or cocktail now.

My Shared Lives carers have been like a mum to me, they have patience to teach me new skills, they’ve helped to teach me to cook and clean up.

People who don’t know about Shared Lives could learn from Shared Lives carers,  they help to improve people’s life skills, go out on trips and holidays, and get you involved with community groups.

Shared Lives carers have helped me out with emotional support, given me someone to talk to, be healthier and I’ve been supported well. Everything I’ve learned with Shared Lives will help me in the future.

Shared Lives has helped me to be more organised, which means I worry less, everything is in order which means I’m less anxious now. I know how to do shopping lists, Shared Lives carers told me to check what I’ve got in before I go shopping, so I don’t buy the same stuff. I look out for offers and shop in the healthy isle. They’ve taught and showed me how to manage my money. “

Michael lives independently now and gets support from another agency but is still a part of the Shared Lives family as one of our Ambassadors.

We would like to thank Michael for writing this guest blog and sharing his story. If you are interested in telling your Shared Lives story, please email Communications Assistant, Hannah Cain at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

For further information about becoming a Shared Lives carer, a member or using Shared Lives services, phone the office on 01512273499.  


Disney Michael






Shared Lives Plus are pleased to announce that we have received funding and will be working with the Department of Education to further develop our support to young people leaving care.  The project will run in eight demonstrator sites across England offering Shared Lives to young people who would not normally have this option, and we are excited by the new challenge.

You can read the full press release, Innovative projects to get £36 million funding boost, here.

Alex Fox's blog for NLGN (New Local Government Network) talks about the results of blanket scepticism that look surprisingly similar to the results of blanket credulity. How Shared Lives and Homeshare make people inclined to trust people that they open their homes and lives too- who they have not known very long.

Alex Fox: "This seems a strange time to be suggesting that we all trust each other – whether we are Shared Lives carers or politicians – more. As 2017 picks up where 2016 left off, I am not completely confident that I will be able to practice what I preach on this, all of the time. But if you’re willing to try to approach me with something like sceptical trust, most of the time, I will do the same for you.

It is, I think, from small acts of trust that functioning communities, organisations and even nations are built."

You can read the full article on the NLGN website here.

This week’s guest blog is from our Ambassador, Nick Sayers.
Nick is an important part of the Shared Lives family, he works very hard as one of our Ambassadors, travelling round the country, appearing and giving speeches at events, explaining the difference Shared Lives has made to his life, to MP’s and people who can help develop Shared Lives.
All this alongside his five day working week- volunteering at different organisations, doing his own shopping and his daily life with his Shared Lives carers, Tina and Stephen.
Nick and Jonathon
I recently spoke to Nick at a team away day that he was speaking at- and as we went through his speech, I realised what a great writer he is.
As we’ve recently launched the Shared Lives Facebook as a way to connect Shared Lives carers, we’ve been asking people involved with Shared Lives to write guest blogs. To give them an online community to engage and support each other, share stories and keep up-to-date with what Shared Lives Plus is doing.
The Facebook page has had a really positive response, so it would be great to keep sharing stories of people who are a part of the Shared Lives family.
Our Shared Lives carers really enjoyed reading our last blog about Shared Lives carer, Andy Cooke and James, who he shares his life with.
You can read the blog post here.
I contacted Nick and asked him if he wanted to write a blog about something he enjoys since he joined Shared Lives.
Nick is autistic and this is the first blog post he has ever written and we think it’s brilliant!
“My name is Nick Sayers and I am one of the Shared Lives Ambassadors, and I want to share with you the Friday night club I go to. I go to the Gosport and District Sports Association, for Disabled (GADSAD) every Friday night. GADSAD provides social and sporting activities to people with disabilities, like myself, in the local area. It allows me the opportunity to socialise with others in the same situation as me and participate in a wide variety of sporting activities and games.
At the club I have the opportunity to play the games I love, such as darts, basketball, hoop throw, pin ball and many others. We have competitions as well with prizes for the winners. We are presented with our prizes at an awards evening once a year where we have a buffet. I have won the Hollis Trophy for the last 6 years, from 2011 to 2016, and hope to win it again this year.
There are also opportunities to help serve on the GADSA Stall at fetes to raise money for the club. We also have Fish and Chip nights where we can sit down and have a takeaway meal and chat.
I wrote this with help from my shared lives carer.”
Nick has lived with Shared Lives carers Tina and Stephen for 7 years, since he was 18 years old.
We’d like to thank Nick and his Shared Lives carer, Stephen- who supported him in writing this for us.
If anyone would like to write a guest blog as a Shared Lives carer, or would like to encourage and assist a person they support to tell their story, please contact Communications Assistant, Hannah Cain at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

This “Scaling up Shared Lives in Health” blog will focus on Bolton, where the Bolton CCG, in conjunction with GMW and Bolton Council, have been successful in receiving NHS England funding to develop Shared Lives in the area.

The new funding will enable the Shared Lives scheme, which is run by Bolton Cares (Bolton Council’s local authority trading company), to offer more arrangements for vulnerable adults to stay with trained Shared Lives carers in family homes, as an alternative to being admitted to hospital or before they return to their own home after a hospital stay.

Shared Lives is already a popular option for older people in Bolton, but this funding will mean the scheme can expand, to offer more support to people with mental health needs and offer an alternative option for people following a stay in hospital, before they return home to their own homes.

Some people have had to move outside of Bolton to receive the support they need in specialist mental health settings, but this programme will work to bring people back into Bolton, but within the support of a family home to ensure they remain safe and well within their communities.

Bolton have run a well-established Shared Lives scheme for over 30 years, and on 31st July 2016, Bolton Care and Support Ltd began trading as Bolton Cares, to continue providing a range of care and support for adults in the community, of which the Shared Lives scheme is one of the options. 

The project will provide employment for 1 new co-ordinator at Bolton Cares in the first year, as well as self-employment opportunities for many more Shared Lives carers. The closing date for the co-ordinator post is 28th February, for details please see: http://www.boltoncares.org.uk/work-with-us/

Chief Executive of Bolton Cares, John Livesey, said: “Shared Lives a wonderful service that really works for the benefit of both service users and carers. The people who use our service become part of a loving family and our carers are experienced in what they do and get so much fulfilment from helping others.

“Since forming Bolton Cares as a not-for-profit company, this is the first major funding boost for us and shows commitment from our partners to developing and improving local adult social care services. We’re delighted with the outcome and looking forward to recruiting more carers and meeting new service users.”

Dr Wirin Bhatiani, Chair of NHS Bolton Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Over the past few months NHS Bolton Clinical Commissioning Group has been working in partnership with Shared Lives, Bolton Council and Greater Manchester Mental Health Services (GMMHS) on a bid to access match funding for a three year project with Shared Lives Plus and NHS England. 

“I am delighted that Bolton has been awarded this funding as one of only five CCG areas across England and Wales.  The bid concentrated on improving access to Shared Lives and as a result more positive outcomes for people with mental health needs and/or learning disabilities.”

Karen Wolstenholme, Registered Manager of Shared Lives in Bolton is “delighted with the success of being able to grow and expand services in this area and looks forward to successful “matching” which will enable people to live to their lives to their full potential in the community of their choice.”


We have launched our Facebook page as a platform for Shared Lives carers to connect with each other, share their experiences and support each other with an online community.
You can find our Facebook page here.
We thought the best way to do this, is to have Shared Lives carer, Andy Cooke, write a guest blog about his Shared Lives arrangement with James. Andy and James, do a lot of work to promote Shared Lives, they have attended many of our events and have featured in an NHS blog.
Rather than us writing and telling you all a Shared Lives story, we thought that it would be best coming from a Shared Lives carer.
Andy Cooke wrote in and told us his story about his life with James.
“James and I have been in a Shared Lives arrangement, in Herts, for just over six years.  Before then James had spent over 20 years in specialist residential care. Moving into a small town community was a huge step for James and a steep learning curve for Andy and the family. Really, settling in takes time, probably about 3 years- building confidence, independence and most important for me, James having a normal life.  There have been times when James has been very poorly, numerous hospital admissions, but now with lots of things to do his health has significantly improved.
A couple of years ago, I asked James what sort of life he wanted. James said, ‘more friends and a paid job’. This is what we set out to do together.  James now has friends at his favourite local café and in the pub down the road. He works in the Country Market, selling tea and coffee and meeting local people. James works in a local shop, not a charity shop, gets training and has made lots of friends. He is on the last day of a 12 week course at the moment with a large supermarket- and he may be offered a paid job. Throw in some Karate, which he was told he should never do, bird watching, photography and voting for the first time in his life you have a citizen, and as James says ‘I feel part of the town’. This has taken time with me  supporting James a lot at first so that he can make those vitally important community connections."
James and Andy have done some work with Shared Lives Plus that has meant travel around the country and brilliant experiences for them both.
Andy: "All the above is good but what really matters is that James feels a part of the family.  Sitting watching some favourite programmes, having meals together, my wife Laura and James making Christmas cakes, going to Ikea, choosing and giving birthday presents, looking after Bronte, the dog and going to the pub. Pretty normal stuff really- that’s great! Anyone who would like to connect with us, talk to us, and meet with us – we would love to hear from you.”
You can follow Andy on Twitter: @andydcooke
We would like to thank Andy for writing in to us and telling his Shared Lives story. If anyone else would like to do the  same, and connect with other Shared Lives carers, please contact Hannah Cain, from the Communications team by emailing her at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
James and Andy James at polling station

Thursday, 02 February 2017 16:21

It's time to talk about mental health!

Today #TimetoTalk is trending on Twitter and people are being encouraged to talk about their mental health.

Many people with different mental health illnesses use Shared Lives services, and whilst our care model will not be suitable for everyone experiencing mental ill health, it is a great option for many.

In the spirit of #TimetoTalk we wanted to publish a story from someone who uses Shared Lives services and lives with mental ill health.

Caroline had been in the Navy- she was being severely bullied whilst training to be a medic. She was initially thrown out of the navy but got involved with combat stress. They got the navy to take full responsibility of what had happened.

Caroline was subsequently diagnosed with severe depression, OCD and post traumatic stress.

Initially Caroline had been allocated to a support worker and they had put her into a supported living set up. She had some hour’s support each week but this was predominantly to help with paperwork. She said: “I wasn’t well, I was basically put into the house and left. I ended up taking a massive overdose and then ended up being sectioned.

I had never heard of shared lives and my social work ended up introducing me to Linda and Owen, I don’t remember much from this time but I remember coming round for tea visits before moving in. This was April 2013. “

Behind the scenes the Shared Lives team had looked at Caroline’s paperwork and assessed that Linda and Owen would be a good match for Caroline. They felt that Linda had the listening skills that would be needed to support her through this period of her life.

Linda: “Caroline tried to describe her OCD- she gets stressed over it, I stroke the light switches, its better to laugh about it if I can, I check the doors all the time, Linda tells me to leave it and she will check it, this really helps, otherwise I would sit by the door all night.”

Caroline said those first few weeks were amazing- the family were so welcoming; it was amazing to be part of the family. Caroline went on to describe how her life has changed: “I settled in really quickly, I didn’t feel like I was treading on eggshells, there was no pressure. I felt I could approach the carer and they would be non- judgemental.”

“In that time I feel my confidence has changed- I’ve got a strength I’ve never had, I’ve had lots of encouragement, I’ve talked for hours with the carers, and there is no such word as can’t.  I do a lot of laughing. I’ve slowly come off some of my medication too in the time I’ve been here which is great. I’ve even managed to have contact again with my family. I see my mum again now who I couldn’t before as she couldn’t deal with me being ill. We do family holidays now too which is amazing.

Now, I work 26 hours a month and have completed my NVQ 2. I run now too, and things like Christmas are amazing- we get so many gifts, I never expect it. We all eat dinner together it’s important as I can chat, considering it’s their house it’s amazing, they are always there for me.

At the very start of my journey I didn’t want to be in the world- but since coming into this placement it’s been great. I’ve not had a dip since I’ve been here and I’ve learnt to listen to my body.

I would tell other people when talking about Shared Lives- there is hope, no matter how unhopeful you feel. I’ve never looked back it’s been brilliant.”

Shared Lives supports and encourages people with mental health illnesses to talk about them and seek help. #TimetoTalk is a great opportunity to break the stigma around talking about mental health.  At Shared Lives we share the stories of people who use our services and respect their wishes, the person’s name in this story has been changed in this story at their request.  

Tuesday, 20 December 2016 11:54

What makes a special Shared Lives Christmas?

Christmas can be a hard time for many people, for various reasons. It may be financial troubles, missing loved ones or loneliness, whatever the reasons, Christmas is not always enjoyable for people.

That’s why this year we wanted to really highlight what Shared Lives carers and our care model does for people who use our services. People who have mental ill health, learning disabilities, dementia and long-term illnesses often come to Shared Lives from traditional, institutionalised care and are looking for a more independent life. Shared Lives allows them to become involved in their local community, through the help of their Shared Lives carer- they begin to create and build on goals they want to achieve, whilst living in a Shared Lives arrangement.

One Shared Lives carer highlighted this heart-warming Christmas memory with us:

“Our favourite memory is of someone who has since passed away, he was 72 when he came to stay with us. On the first Christmas Eve we heard his bedroom door clicking, on investigation, we found he kept peeping out of his room to see if Father Christmas had come yet, because he wanted to shake his hand - it brought a tear to our eyes."

Darren Shared Lives carers from Guideposts, Natalie and Darren:

“Darren always smiles his way through the year. He celebrated his 18th birthday at Centre Parks and enjoyed his first pint! We have been camping in Dartmouth, and skiing in Samoens, France at Christmas .We are going again this year and Darren has been learning to ski throughout the year.”

Throughout Christmas many Shared Lives schemes throw events and raise awareness and one scheme highlighted their favourite Christmas party from two years ago.

Bettertogether ( formerly Shared Lives Scheme Newham) had a memorable wonderful Christmas get together party and got a grant of £500 (five hundred!!!) from Shared Lives Plus.

Anne Kasibante, from Bettertogether: "I still salivate when I think of the food..People danced and we had time to spread christmas cheer."

 One thing we love to do at Christmas with Shared Lives is to really try and spend time together and build our relationships with schemes, Shared Lives carers and Ambassadors.

Jenni Kirkham, NHS Programme Officer and our Ambassador, Michael shared their favourite Christmas moment with us- it was the day they first met each other.

Jenni and Michael 2

They wrote this together: “These photos are from last Christmas- it was brilliant because it was the first time we had all met each other and started a lovely friendship between all of us. We all met up 

again for Michael’s birthday early in the year, and went to watch The Jungle Book at the cinema. Michael baked flapjacks for us to eat in the film- much better Jenni and Michael 2than popcorn! We’re all looking forward to another Christmas together again this year, because we will get to spend a day together and see each other again. Jenni is especially looking forward to eating the Christmas cake that Michael made with her mum Judith earlier this year!

For many Shared Lives carers Christmas is as special for them, as the people they share their life, home and family with.

Lisa Gunn, 47, from Gateshead Shared Lives scheme, looks after a 93 year old lady. She believes that despite their age difference they have developed a fabulous friendship in the last 18 months.

She said: “The special times Grace and I share together are the simplest. We sit next to each other on the sofa having heart to hearts, daily moans and groans, laughs and tears along the way, as good friends sharing quality time together so often do. She is an absolute pleasure to be with.

Heather Cooke, from one of our partner organisations PSS, sent us these lovely pictures from first PSS TRIO Christmas Party.

John and Eva

This was the first PSS TRIO Christmas Party John and Eva have attended since John was diagnosed with Dementia. They both really enjoyed themselves and felt fully supported.

They had light entertainment from a local Drama School and a Christmas sing along which was enjoyed by all.

We would like to say a big thank you to everyone who sent in all their greatest Christmas memories and moments, over the years. It really is a great way for everyone to see the value of Shared Lives, and how much of a difference our care model makes to peoples lives, not just at Christmas but all year round.

You can see more pictures and Christmas memories by following our Twitter account: @SharedLivesPlus. and you can also join in by using #SharedLivesFestiveFun to publish all your Christmas pictures and moments with Shared Lives!

We have been sharing memories of Shared Lives carers and people who use our services since last week.

We have been sent all different types of special memories, from meeting Peter Andre, people performing in a Panto, holidays, day trips or a special Christmas day shared with family. We decided to put together a post of memories that are more than the 140 characters Twitter allows.

Here are some stories that Shared Lives carers and Shared Lives Plus staff have told us about and what the memory means to them.

Shared Lives carer, Kelly Harrington and Brenda Barley in Redditch.

“Last Christmas, we had a family Christmas together- the weekend before Christmas Day. Everyone was heading off to visit other family members for the big day, and we wanted to have our family time together. Brenda loved sharing time with kids and watching them open their gifts and was delighted with her necklace from us all. It was lovely to see lots of smiles from her and to share a very special day. “

Shared Lives carer, Margret Long.

“I have two young Ladies with me now.  Adele came in August 2012, and Esther came in September 2016. They get on really well together and are like Sisters now. Last year was Esther’s first Christmas with me- so I wanted to make it extra special for her. She was amazed at how many presents she had to open. We went to my Sisters (who is also a Shared Lives carer) for a slap up family, Christmas dinner. A great time had by all. Adele was at her Sisters last year on Christmas day but is looking forward to spending it with us this year. We also paid a visit to the pantomime over the festive period… "


Shared Lives carer, Karen Havinga.

“We have had a great Christmas so far. I care for Lizzie and we all had fun ice skating at Webbs a few weeks ago.  It was Lizzie's first time and my son's. My sister and I haven't been since we were kids! 


Also some shared lives friends and their individuals and me, my husband, son and Lizzie all went bowling on Monday afternoon for a Christmas bowling party. We all had a fun afternoon and it's so fabulous all getting together.”


Our last Christmas memory for this post is Shared Lives carer, Pat Haines, telling us one of Stephen’s greatest Christmas moments.


 “Stephen enjoys singing in the Tuesday Club choir.  This year they raised £570 for the Liverpool City Mission, this money is going to help feed the homeless at Christmas. Stephen joined the club when he joined shared lives.”

 We will be highlighting more #SharedLivesFestiveFun memories and moments throughout the week, in the run-up to Christmas, 2016. Thank you, to everyone for taking the time to send all your pictures and Shared Lives Christmas  experiences in, it is very much appreciated!

Stephen pic 












Shared Lives has been overwhelmed by responses to our request for Christmas memories and moments, over the years.

This year we wanted to celebrate Christmas with a look back at how Shared Lives carers and the people they open their life, home and family too, celebrate the festive season.

We have been inundated with heart-warming, fun and meaningful memories from Shared Lives carers and schemes.

This year’s Christmas theme is to showcase the relationships developed through Shared Lives- and what it means to the people who use our services.

We also wanted to show everyone what a Christmas with Shared Lives is all about- as many of our Shared Lives carers may not use social media.

One Shared Lives carer, Loraine Muir, sent me her greatest Christmas moment with Leslie, who she has known for 13 years.

Leslie 1

 “I am Lori, a Shared Lives Carer in Horsham with the West Sussex Scheme. In that capacity I have known Leslie, a sixty year old gentleman, for thirteen years. Last year following a significant bereavement I thought it would be a positive experience for us both to visit Longleat Festival of Light with my Daughter and Grandchildren.

We stayed nearby the night before so we could make the most of the day. It was everything I had hoped for and more. From seeing all the magnificent animals to the boat ride, it was immensely enjoyable for our three generation group. However, as Leslie loves birds the daytime highlights was feeding the colourful Lorikeets, and the Parrot show, which made him laugh out loud. 

Leslie 3

As it grew dark and the lights were turned on the atmosphere became completely magical. We walked around the visual displays in awe and wonder. The many photographs taken were put in an album for Leslie and he proudly took it with him to show to his friends. It was a very special and uplifting occasion for us all but it was particularly heart-warming to see how much Leslie enjoyed himself.”Leslie 5


We would like to thank Loraine for sharing one of her and Leslie's favourite festive moments, and everyone else who has sent theirs in to us. Merry Christmas from everyone at Shared Lives, please continue to send in all your best Christmas memories and pictures spent with Shared Lives!






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HOLIDAY STORIES – Share your holiday experiences here!


August 2015

Geoffrey visits Suffolk!

In August 2015 Geoffrey from the Ealing Shared Lives scheme went on Holiday to Suffolk to stay with Sally and Brian. The fortnight was packed full of activities.
Geoffrey’s visit took in Thorpness, ships at Felixstowe, Ipswich Museum, and Framlington Castle. Ice Creams were shared, walks taken and there was even a trip to see the BBC Concert Orchestra!

Geoffrey experienced the camper van lifestyle – along with the family dogs, ate fish and chips and drank tea in the open air, and overall a fantastic time was had by all.
Catherine from Ealing Shared Lives scheme tell us that “Geoffrey had a lovely time with Sally and Brian. His carer said he keeps talking about his stay in Suffolk”

You can read the full story and look at the holiday snaps in this document here. Geoffreys_holiday.pdf


June 2015 

Joe Waring is a holiday carer in Norfolk, who with his family support up to nine different individuals each year, mostly from the London borough of Wandsworth. Most people come several times a year and sometimes with a friend.
Joe wrote about two people who come for holidays.

June, who is 52 years old, comes to stay 6 or 7 times a year, having first come about 6 years ago. She sometimes comes on her own, and sometimes with a friend. She is very close to her mother and brother, and I think she likes being part of another family: myself, my wife and our 18 year old daughter. June’s mother is also reassured that the care for June focuses on her individual needs. June is very sociable and has a great sense of humour. She loves meeting our friends either at our house or theirs, and having a laugh, sharing stories and food and, I’m afraid, sharing a glass of wine, too! We go out every day to somewhere of interest in Norfolk, either in Norwich, where we live, in the nearby Norfolk Broads countryside, or to the coast. June particularly likes seeing the horse she recently “adopted” in a local horse sanctuary, and going to the amusements at Great Yarmouth. June always brings enough money to buy presents from Norfolk for her family and friends back in London.

Jack has also been coming to us for about 6 years. He always brings a pool cue and enjoys going to the local ten-pin bowling alley to bowl and play pool. He has been beating me at both for all of those 6 years, and I’m getting a bit tired waiting for his luck to run out! Jack especially likes our dog, Daisy, and volunteers to join us walking her every day. Like June, who he sometimes comes with, Jack is very sociable and always wants to meet our friends and family. He will sometimes help prepare a meal for a dinner party, and likes to dress up for the occasion in his best clothes. Jack likes going to museums- there are some great ones in Norfolk- and has recently gone a couple of times to the local cathedral to light a candle in memory of his father. Before he first did this, Jack had never gone into a church since his father’s funeral 10 years previously. Although Jack usually stays with a friend, he always comes on his own a few weeks before Christmas, when he buys presents for all his family, and wraps and tags them all carefully before taking them home.

Thanks Joe for sharing the stories and offering wonderful holiday experiences