Caroline Fellingham could have ended up in a residential care home. Her learning disabilities mean that living unsupported on her own is simply not an option. She needs company, routine and a sense of security.
But instead of life in an institution, Caroline lives with the Clark family in their Southsea home.
Mark and Tara Clark help Caroline with tasks such as organising her money, filling in forms and cooking. Then, at the end of the day, they and the Clarks’ daughter Chloe all sit down to eat dinner together and chat.
It’s a perfect example of the value of the Shared Lives service in Portsmouth, which finds carers to provide accommodation and support for adults who have learning or physical disabilities, mental health needs, or other circumstances that might make them vulnerable.
Caroline has lived with the Clarks for three years now. Being part of their family has given her confidence, happiness and stability. She is able to go to college and go on shopping trips with Tara.
The Clarks, like all Shared Lives carers, get paid for what they do. Carers can receive up to £360 a week per person, made up of a wage from the adult social care budget and the service user’s own contribution to rent, food and living costs, usually paid for out of housing benefit.
But it’s obvious that they don’t do it just for the money. As well as Caroline, the Clarks also provide day care for a man who visits on Sundays for lunch and some company.
We think Shared Lives is a great example of the Big Society in action, where those who can offer help to those who need it. For people like the Clarks, the reward is much more than financial. They get the satisfaction of knowing they are helping two people to feel part of a family and get on with their lives.
As the service tries to find more carers, we urge people to consider putting themselves forward. Go to the Shared Lives website, call the team or go along to a drop-in event at Southsea Library on February 25 to find out more. Your decision to get involved could make a huge difference.