Shared Lives family farm feeds community through Covid-19

Shared Lives is a bit like foster care but the very big difference is that it’s for adults who want their own freedom and independence. Shared Lives carers support all sorts of different people; people with disabilities, people experiencing mental health struggles, new parents, people leaving hospital who need support finding their feet, people overcoming a drug or alcohol addiction, people moving on from the formal children’s care system and lots more vulnerable adults. With Shared Lives, adults move in with a specially trained and recruited carer and become a part of their family. Or they stay with them for a short time whilst getting respite care from their full-time carer or until they feel ready to move on. They might even get support from a carer who just offers day support. It’s completely shaped around the needs of the person being supported. One thing remains the same in Shared Lives placements. Someone is supported to lead their life their way.  

Ray and Gaynor are PSS Shared Lives carers in Cheshire. They support three adults with complex needs who live in their family home with them; Carl (aged 44), Helen (aged 50) and Pat (aged 46). Carl, Helen and Pat love their life with their carers, living next to five acres of vast farmland where they can stretch their legs along with horses, geese, pigs, turkeys, sheep and some gorgeous newborn lambs. Carl, Helen and Pat have also been supporting the family to keep up with demand in their local business, ‘Molly’s Farm’ (https://www.facebook.com/basicfarming/) which has been a massive boost to the local community supply chain through Covid-19. The farm store sells to locals and also gives generous donations to those most in need in the local community. Carl, Helen and Pat have been helping to grow and portion out fruit and vegetables into hamper baskets to be safely delivered to the doorsteps of elderly and vulnerable local residents – free of charge.   

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Carl, Helen and Pat have really enjoyed being able to carry on mucking in on the farm, helping to raise the animals and keeping that important sense of routine. This has enabled them to keep on feeling happy and supported despite all the worries that they’re feeling during this time of uncertainty. They’ve been able to gain a real sense of purpose and pride in supplying the local community with yummy and nutritious produce, lovingly grown in their own on-site polytunnels. These have been flying off the shelves when the farm store opens every weekend. Carl, Helen and Pat are developing business skills and – more importantly – getting a sense of how important their local community is. They are used to being so active in the local community, with the farm hosting free festivals that attracted two and a half thousand people in the past. Carl, Helen and Pat certainly get to enjoy life to the fullest with their Shared Lives family and have made so many friends through these parties and gatherings. Shared Lives is all about giving people the confidence and independence to lead life their way and to feel that unbeatable feeling of family and belonging – something which these guys definitely feel in their local community.   

Carl, Helen and Pat are truly a massive part of the extended family. Carl has been living with Ray and Gaynor for 19 years now, Helen for 12 years and Pat for two years. Ray and Gaynor are so proud of how far they’ve come during that time and gain so much from supporting. Ray and Gaynor not only have these three living with them full-time, they also have people supported by Shared Lives enjoy Short Breaks or mini holidays in their home, whilst their carer has a little break. 64 individual people with support needs have enjoyed respite in their home since they became carers, lots of them coming back again after enjoying the great outdoors so much the first time around. Ray and Gaynor pride themselves in living off-grid and using the benefits of nature to support positive mental health and wellbeing for them and the people they support. Gaynor has recently got the five year ‘all clear’ from cancer and credits her extended family for being her rock during this terrible time. Dave says that their attitude to everything is to keep each other strong and carry on. And Covid-19 is another situation that they’re taking on together and getting through as best they can, gifting their local community in the process.  

Find out more about becoming a Shared Lives carer: makeyourself.org.uk