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Stacey Dooley meets Paul, Richard, and Tina in the latest episode of her Fresh Starts podcast

Another inspirational Shared Lives household has featured on Stacey Dooley’s Fresh Starts podcast for BBC Radio 5 Live and BBC Sounds. In the latest episode Stacey met up with twins Paul and Richard, who live with their Shared Lives carer, Tina, in Rogiet, South-East Wales.

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Twin brothers Paul and Richard Jordan lived together under the care of their aunt – until she sadly passed away. They didn’t know what would future would hold for them and could have been separated, until Shared Lives carer Tina stepped in.

Both Paul and Richard, who have a learning disability, featured in Stacey’s latest podcast series, Fresh Starts, released this week.

She heard how the twins, 35, and their carer Tina, from Rogiet, came to live together just before the first Covid-19 lockdown in 2020, and managed to come through a rollercoaster of personal tragedy and pandemic hardship.

Prior to meeting Tina, Paul and Richard had lived with their aunt in Newport for many years. She was their sole carer and had managed practically every aspect of their lives. Their world was turned upside down when she was suddenly admitted to hospital in 2020, diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer and given just six weeks to live.

Paul said:

“We found ourselves in the worst situation we could have ever imagined, our aunt and only care provider was admitted into hospital and sadly passed away soon after. We were grieving, terrified of being alone, not knowing how to look after ourselves and most importantly, fearful of being separated.”

With things happening so quickly and very limited contact with social services previously, the men were in danger of being left on the street when their aunt passed away.  But the quick thinking of family friends alerted Newport social services, who referred the men to the local Shared Lives service.

In Shared Lives, adults who need social care support are matched with a fully trained and CIW-regulated carer who works in their own home. The match is based on the compatibility – and both parties have the final say on who they’re matched with. Together, they share a home, family and community life, with the people seeking support either regularly visiting the Shared Lives carer’s home or, in Paul and Richard’s case, living there permanently and becoming a part of the family.

The first month with Tina was a rollercoaster of emotions as the twins struggled to come to terms with their aunt’s passing, and a new and unfamiliar life. Soon after, the first Covid-19 lockdown hit which brought fresh worries – how would this affect the funeral arrangements? Would family and friends even be able to attend? And what about the future – where were they going to live long term? Would they be split up?

Yet with the patient, dedicated and compassionate support of Tina, little by little the twins began to build a new life. Tina made it clear that she had no intention of splitting them up, and that they could stay with her as long as they wanted to. They showed tremendous resilience to cope with the grief of losing such a close loved one, as well as the intense strangeness and claustrophobia of the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.

They began to grow in other ways too. The twins’ aunt had been very protective, which meant they had not had opportunity to learn some of the skills needed to lead an independent life. The principles underpinning Shared Lives are about empowering people who receive support, and with guidance from Tina, Paul and Richard began to flourish.

They learned practical skills like cooking and began to experience life in a fuller sense even throughout the pandemic, becoming more active and exploring the outdoors through wild fruit-picking and spending time with Tina’s horses. They also had a far greater say in how they lived –expressing their wishes and ambitions and coming to mutual agreements with Tina about how to reach their goals.

“Since we meet Tina our lives have changed so much! We are learning new skills all the time and coping mechanisms on managing anxiety and grief. For the first time in our lives we are in control of what our care and support looks like. We’ve experienced so many new things together as a family and look forward to the future.

“We are constantly building our confidence, skills and overcoming long standing fears, especially in the in the kitchen and now love practising our signature dish of spaghetti bolognese with Tina’s support.”

When Stacey Dooley’s team heard about the twins’ story, they got in touch and made arrangements to meet them at their home, where recording took place in December last year. The episode was released this week and is available on the BBC website.

Local Shared Lives provider, Shared Lives South East Wales, is looking for more carers to support its growing service.

Caerphilly County Borough Council Cabinet Member for Social Care and Housing, Cllr Shayne Cook, said:

“Tina, Paul and Richard’s experience show that there can be a life after the death of a loved one. For adults with support needs who have lived with family members for a long time, Shared Lives can offer a path to a rich, full and independent life.”

If you would like to find out more about becoming a Shared Lives carer in South East Wales you call 01443 864784, or search ‘South East Wales Shared Lives’ online.

Stacey Dooley's Fresh Starts

Fresh Starts is all about fresh beginnings, overcoming challenges and inspiring people.

Stacey Dooley’s latest series of Fresh Starts features two amazing Shared Lives families and you can listen to both episodes here.