This week, Becky Viney-Wood, our new Policy Officer, has been to meet some of our members in Milton Keynes. She’s totally inspired by their amazing work and support for each other:
First, I met Jerry who loves cycling along the paths near his home in Milton Keynes. At 18, Jerry wasn’t ready to live alone or in supported housing because of his needs to support his autism, but he was too old for fostering, where he had been since he was eleven. But his foster carers Terri and Don, heard about Shared Lives and the independence it gives in a family home, so they transferred their skills to become approved Shared Lives carers and Jerry was able to stay with them and get the continuing support he needs.
They were just three of the wonderful people I met whilst spending three days with the Shared Lives team in Milton Keynes.
I met a wide range of people, including Becky, who is supported by Shared Lives carers (pictured below making pastries), family members of those being supported, current and potential Shared Lives carers, and the team of Shared Lives staff who work hard to ensure people in Shared Lives arrangements and their Shared Lives carers are happy and supported effectively.
Becky is one of the people I met who told me she is happy being supported by her Shared Lives respite carer. Credit: R. Viney-Wood
Karen, Shared Lives officer, and I visited Tim, someone who uses Shared Lives care, for a spot check, to make sure that he is happy visiting his Shared Lives respite carer. Karen is familiar with Tim and how his autism effects his communication. She asked Tim questions in such a way that he was able to express that he missed his Shared Lives carer whilst she was on holiday. Shared Lives officers such as Karen understand the value of a person-centred approach to social care, which means trying to understand what Tim values and respecting the things that he finds important.
As well as putting person-centred care into action, Shared Lives officers in Milton Keynes have been working on co-production. According to the Care Act 2014 statutory guidance, co-production is:
“…when an individual influences the support and services received, or when groups of people get together to influence the way that services are designed, commissioned and delivered”
I attended a workshop that Lucy, Shared Lives officer ran, to re-design the individual support plans for each Shared Lives arrangement. Lucy encouraged those supported by Shared Lives, their family members and Shared Lives carers to get involved and have their say on how to make the plans more accessible. The workshop was a great success, as everyone made valuable contribution such as asking for less jargon and more personal history on the plans.
Lucy, Shared Lives officer running the co-production workshop on individual support plans. Credit: R. Viney-Wood
The Shared Lives model puts people at its centre. In practice, this means making sure people who are being supported, such as Tim, Jerry and Becky, can have a say about their care. It also means matching the right Shared Lives carers with those needing support, so that everyone is happy, including Shared Lives carers like Terri and Don. I am grateful to everyone I met at Shared Lives Milton Keynes, for showing me what a passion for great care and respect for people’s views about their social care looks like.