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“I was scared at first because it was a strange place, then I got more confident to stay”

Steven’s life changed for the worse when his father died and he was left to live alone. After an incident of self-harming, his family alerted the social services and he was moved to sheltered accommodation, but life didn't improve. Steven, 61, from Liverpool, was lonely and his living conditions were poor. Eventually he became the victim of financial abuse.

But after Steven was referred to the local Shared Lives scheme and introduced to Pat, an approved Shared Lives carer, it was all was about to change.

Steven was invited to get to know Pat, Allen and their family with a view to moving in with them permanently.

Steven says: “I came here because I like the place and the atmosphere. I was scared at first because it was a strange place, then I got more confident to stay.”

Being a Shared Lives carer brings with it all sorts of experiences and challenges.

When Pat first visited Steven in his flat, she was upset.

She said: “When I saw the conditions he was living in, and how depressed he was, there was no way I was leaving him to that.”

“It’s an interesting journey, and a little time is needed for all concerned to adjust to the new living arrangements.”

Pat explains: “At first, we had this sort of a rule that Steven must go to his room at 9pm, just to give us a little privacy in the day. But that’s stopped. He stays up with us now.”

Together with the support of Pat and Allen, Steven started to re-organise his life and realise his potential.

He passed the advocacy for his financial affairs over to Pat, which is when she discovered that there was far less money in his account than there should have been, and it clearly hadn’t been spent by Steven.

“He thought that there was money, and he misunderstood the £55 bank charge. In fact, he was in a lot of debt and he was eating out of food banks.”

Steven had also been registered as depressed with the Job Centre during his “Return to Work” interview, when actually he had learning disabilities and anxiety. This too made a big difference to the benefits that he was entitled to.

Steven’s life now bears little resemblance to the one he was living.

He said: “I never used to go out, never had any friends. Since I came here I go to church and the Tuesday club – I’ve got loads of friends now.”

He’s a student on the Jamie Oliver catering course at Hugh Bairds College, he attends wood working classes at the Tool Shed and he’s a regular feature on the terraces at Anfield. Not to mention the wonderful trips that he has enjoyed with Pat and Allen to Turkey and Cyprus.

Steven is rightly pleased with his improved health too, losing four stone and finally getting his diabetes under control.

“He should be very proud of himself,” Pat said.

But Pat and her husband Allen have also gained so much from this special friendship.

“Allen and Steven often go out for a pint together,” explained Pat, “and talk about the old places in Liverpool.”

And while Allen has been hospitalised, Steven has been a great help and support to her too.

“We’re like Darby and Joan. We’re company for each other,” she said.

She adds: “When Steven first came I’d lay the table in the dining room for dinner every night, but one day I just stopped. Well, you can relax when when you’re a family.”