Linda Shaw describes her housemate Cath Tynan as being just like a “big sister”.
They cook together, watch TV, go out to the cinema and share many laughs.
Linda, 53, who has a mild learning disability and emotional needs, moved in with Cath six months ago as part of Tameside Council’s Shared Lives Scheme.
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.
Cath, who formerly worked in social services, first got involved in the scheme four years ago when she joined a friend – who was already a Shared Lives carer – in helping out at a day support group,
The 56-year-old from Hyde said: “I realised I had skills and experience that were still useful that could help people who needed support gain independence and live fuller and better lives.”
Linda, who previously lived with her elderly parents, first started spending time with Cath on an informal, ad hoc basis but as time went on – and her parents’ health started deteriorating – it was recognised that she would benefit from longer term support..
Cath said: “Linda’s parents were worrying about Linda – her father was terminally ill and her mother was apprehensive about Linda’s future. When we discussed her living with me through the Shared Lives scheme, they were delighted and hugely relieved – it was a weight off their shoulders as it gave them peace of mind that Linda would be safe.
“Through the Shared Lives scheme, Linda has a social worker and myself to support her while also having her own voice and independence. She still has daily contact with her mum but is getting out more, attending groups and spending more time with her peers..
“Linda and I get on and do lots of things together but it’s also important we respect eachother’s space and do things separately – just as you would in a normal household. I find it very rewarding to see Linda enjoying new opportunities and independence. It’s working out really well for everyone.
Linda said: “I’m still in touch with my mum every day and see her all the time but it’s brilliant living with Cath – she’s like a big sister to me and helping me get out more and enjoy myself. I trust Cath and she understands me and knows what I like and don’t like. Any problems I have I can just go to Cath or my mum. It’s great.”
Tameside Council is recruiting more Shared Lives carers, who receive a generous allowance as well as full training and support. No formal qualifications are expected, the team welcome people from a wide variety of backgrounds, with different skills and life experience. For further information see www.tameside.gov.uk/sharedlives or call 0161 342 5151.