LESLEY Smith and Ros Harding are happy housemates - with a difference.
Lesley is Ros’ carer and shares her home with her through Tameside Council’s Shared Lives scheme, which is being highlighted as part of National Shared Lives Week 17- 25 June 2017.
The scheme, formerly known as Adult Placement, currently supports over 130 service users – from older people to adults with mental health illness or a physical or learning disability.
Carers and service users are matched, based on requirements and compatibility, and arrangements are made for support – be in long term accommodation, respite care or support in getting out during the day and taking part in activities.
Lesley, 53, from Denton, became a carer on the scheme four years ago after taking early retirement.
She initially offered day support and respite care to service users including Ros, who has Down’s Syndrome. The pair got on so well that when Ros was looking for a new long term placement two years ago, Lesley felt she was in the ideal position to help.
Lesley said: “Both my children had left home to go to university and so I knew I had the room and the time to make a real difference. To share your house is to give someone the opportunity of as homelife that they may never otherwise experience. They become an extension of your family.
“It’s exceptionally rewarding. It can be challenging too but I have an incredibly good support network including friends who are also carers on the scheme so we can chat through things together and you also get good training and back-up from social workers.
“Ros is like part of the family and is involved in family life. She is also independent in many ways and has her own interests - it’s important that we both have our own time as well as doing things together.”
Ros, 36, volunteers at a local nursery two days a week, visits MENCAP’s day centre and is involved in numerous activities including a drama group, horseriding and a drumming workshop. She particularly enjoys spending time with the family pet – a dog called Bentley.
She said: “I like being here, I like being independent and it’s also nice to feel at home - Lesley feels like a sister to me. I also love Bentley and taking him on walks.”
Carers on the Shared Life scheme receive an excellent allowance as well as full training and support.
Lesley said: “Anyone thinking about it should just try it – shadow someone who already does it and experience what we do. It can really enjoyable with the right support, it’s more than a job - it’s life-enhancing for all involved.
“It is also very flexible – it can fit around your existing family life and you can also do it even if you already work.”
For further information see www.tameside.gov.uk/sharedlives
or call 0161 342 5151.