Around 1.5 million people in the UK have a learning disability and around 350,000 of those have a severe learning disability.
Shared Lives is safe, consistent and person-centred, and has a rich history of supporting people with a learning disability to live well. Shared Lives is diversifying to support people with different support needs, but the majority of people in a Shared Lives arrangement have a learning disability.
Stephen is 61 and lives with diabetes and a learning disability. When Stephen’s father died and he was left to live on his own, his life took a turn for the worse.
Stephen struggled with mental ill health and he was financially defrauded by members of his family. He was unable to do many of the things that make up an ordinary life. He couldn’t keep himself or his flat clean, ate badly and spent his days alone watching television.
When Stephen was introduced to his future Shared Lives carer Pat and her husband Alan, both parties decided they wanted to live together: Stephen said: “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.”
The life change for Pat wasn’t seamless either, as she committed to sharing almost all aspects of her life with a new person, with different habits and personality traits.
“When he first came to us – Stephen swore like a trooper!” said Pat.
As Stephen explained: “We’re from totally different backgrounds.”
Gradually, Stephen’s life expanded in all directions. With the support of Pat and Alan, he started to realise his potential and participate in home, family and community life. He is a student on a catering course at college, he attends wood working classes and is a regular attendee at his local football club. He has enjoyed his first ever holidays with Pat and Allen – to Turkey and Cyprus, and has made friends at college and social clubs including Jenny, who he goes to the cinema with. 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.”
As his cooking skills have improved Stephen has developed a much healthier lifestyle, he has lost four stone and his diabetes is now under control.
“He should be very proud of himself,” Pat said.
But Pat and her husband Alan have also gained so much from their relationship with Stephen. Alan and Stephen often go to the pub together and enjoy conversations about local history and heritage. “Now, they are like Darby and Joan,” Pat says of Alan and Stephen. “There have been times when I’ve felt down and Stephen has been great at cheering me up. We’re company for each other.”