First Steps Women’s Centre

How The Shared Lives Scheme Is Helping People Enjoy Life Together

Shared Lives Schemes have been running in Northern Ireland for more than 20 years. They were formally known as adult placement schemes and provide care for adults in approved family homes as an alternative to institutional care. In Northern Ireland, Shared Lives Schemes currently focus exclusively on supporting adults with a learning disability. Stephanie and Martin Kenny from Belfast are long-standing Shared Lives carers who provide care for Ann.

“We provide short respite breaks for two adults with learning disabilities through the Families Matter Shared Lives Service and gain so much from having them in our lives.

These breaks can be for a day, short breaks lasting a few days or even longer term living arrangements. In our case, we offer weekend breaks, Saturday daytime support and occasional holiday short breaks in the summer period.

We can honestly say that giving up a few Saturdays a month to help other families, by giving them some respite, has been without a doubt one of the best things we have ever done. Our own wider family circle really enjoys having these special people in their lives as well.

We’ve become like a second family to Ann and she enjoys being part of a family environment. Ann’s family, who support her to live in the community, tell us they would be lost without this valuable respite care, which enables them to have a much-needed break whilst knowing that Ann is in a safe, nurturing environment.

While Ann is with us we provide a wide range of opportunities - both at home and in the community - to enhance her life and promote independence, such as doing some baking, going shopping, going out for coffee or lunch, picnics and walks in summer, a birthday trip to the Royal Opera House, and special celebrations at Christmas.

We were recruited by the Positive Futures Families Matter Shared Lives Service, which actively recruits people who are interested in applying to become Shared Lives Carers.

We had to undergo an assessment before being approved. We then received training and were fully supported by a team of social workers during the process of matching us with the person who would be placed with us.

The service is regulated by the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA), under the Adult Placement Regulations, to ensure it meets all regulatory requirements and is funded by or delivered directly by four out of the five Health and Social Care Trusts in Northern Ireland.”

Have you experience of caring for someone with a learning disability? What are the challenging and rewarding aspects of providing care?

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