The chance to change a life

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“It’s an incredibly rewarding experience and something I would encourage people to consider.”

These are the words of a Shared Lives champion who has opened up her home and heart to a young woman in need of support.

Jane Gaskell, who lives in Wigan, hopes more residents will think about providing a helping hand in similar fashion.

The 67-year-old signed up to the Shared Lives Scheme in November and has been paired with Steph, 24.

Shared lives schemes support adults with learning disabilities, mental health problems or other needs that make it harder for them to live on their own.

Jane says she decided to be part of the scheme after previously caring for and working with people that have learning difficulties.

She is backing this year’s Shared Lives Week and encouraging others to become champions.

Sadly, Steph suffered from years of neglect in her family home and arrived at Jane’s home with massive anxieties and mental scars.

“When she first arrived at my house, she had zero confidence and didn’t know how to cook or even wash her hair properly but in the last six months she has grown and come on leaps and bounds,” Jane said.

“Over the last six months I have seen her grow as a person and every day is a learning process for us both, but we get on great and enjoy being around each other.”

The move has been incredibly beneficial for Steph who has not only got somewhere to stay but has developed as a person learning new skills.

“I am really happy being here, I feel really at home and it’s helped me get a lot of confidence,” she said.

The council wants to remind people that Shared Lives Champions come from all walks of life. You don’t need any qualifications or experience, you just need to have some spare time or the ability to share your home to make a real difference to someone’s life.

Anyone who signs up will receive free mandatory training so you can fulfil the role, ongoing support from the shared lives team, opportunities to meet other Champions and a payment for your time and expenses to ensure you are not out of pocket, based on the support needs of the person you are caring for.

Jane added: “I couldn’t recommend it anymore, if people have the capacity to bring someone into their home then they should. It’s an incredibly rewarding experience to be part of.

“It’s fantastic to show someone there are people who are willing to care and help. To see the difference in her and where she has come from is amazing.”

Adults who need support are carefully matched with Shared Lives champions, who are local people with shared interests, or simply someone that they get on well with.

Coun Keith Cunliffe, cabinet member for adult and social care, said: “We already know that Shared Lives champions do an incredible job, opening up their homes and sharing their lives to create kinder, stronger communities.

“In recent times Covid-19 has brought this into focus even more sharply. Many households have had to adapt and deal with the extra pressures created by lockdown – either practical or financial. We think this is all the more reason why we should celebrate, raise awareness and thank Shared Lives during Shared Lives Week.

“But we are always looking for more champions and there are a whole variety of options available so if you think you could cater for someone else then please contact the council and make a huge difference to someone’s life.”

What type of support can champions give?

• Day/evening activities – where people can realise their aspirations and do the things that are important to them with support from their champion

• Respite/ short-term breaks – where people stay overnight at the home of their champion

• Full-time placement –where people live with their champion on a long-term basis and are valued as ‘one of the family’

Shared Lives Champions can offer different types of placements, and will be carefully matched with someone who they have shared interests with, or simply someone they get on well with. You can talk to a member of our team about your different options by filling out the online form at www.wigan.gov.uk/sharedlives #SharedLivesWeek

To find out more about becoming a Shared Lives champion email [email protected]