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For many of us this year has made us appreciate our homes and families more than ever before.

And that is particularly true for Nigel and Bridget, who live with Emily and Garry in their home as part of the Shared Lives scheme.

Shared Lives is a unique service managed by Portsmouth City Council for adults who may need a bit of extra support because of a physical or learning disability or mental health issue. These adults stay in the homes of their Shared Lives carers for long stays, short stays or day support, and they share their carers’ family and community life.

Emily has been a Shared Lives carer for 12 years. She says, “My mother in law used to be a Shared Lives carer many years ago. When my children were older and left home I decided to become a carer myself.”

Asked whether it felt different being part of the Shared Lives scheme this year, she said: “Yes it has felt different this year. Trying to explain how the virus can affect people was challenging.”

Nigel has lived with Emily and Garry for 10 years. He says, “I like living with Emily and Garry. I have been here a long time. They take me on holidays and I am part of the family. I like my hobbies with Garry like darts and pigeons. I like days out with the grandkids too.”

Reflecting on the Coronavirus pandemic, Nigel says: “I wanted to go to day service but Emily explained that I couldn’t because of the virus. It was OK because we kept safe at home. Emily gave us puzzles and games.”

Bridget has been with the family for 9 months. She says: “I have only been here a little while but I feel at home. I like my room and I like living with Emily and Garry and I like living with the dogs. I like knitting and I like drawing. Emily helps me.”

She says of the Coronavirus, “Emily explained about the virus. We went out for walks when we could. Emily took me. I’ve liked knitting, painting and crafts.”

With Portsmouth under Coronavirus restrictions much of the year, family celebrations became particularly special for everyone. Emily says, “VE day was a good celebration as well as birthdays and Easter.”

Bridget and Nigel reflected back on some of their favourite moments from the year:

“Nigel’s birthday was good. I liked the music and we had fun”, says Bridget.

“I enjoyed the VE Day party with scones and jam”, says Nigel. “We had music and decorated the house. We made flags.”

After a challenging year everyone is now looking forward to Christmas together.

“Christmas is a special time for me and my family, and my service users and we will be celebrating together. We have had fun decorating the house and outdoors, making Christmas cards and sending them. Bridget and Nigel have helped me to wrap presents and prepare for the big day. Everybody is getting excited”, Emily says.

And what about their hopes for 2021?

Emily says, “I hope that we are able to have a holiday. I would like to take Bridget and Nigel on a short break to Butlins when safe to do so.”

Nigel says, “To see the virus gone.”
Bridget says, “To be able to visit my Mum and give her a cuddle.”

Emily says, “It’s been difficult for everybody but I have been supported by Shared Lives and feel they are always on the end of the phone when needed. Thank you to all those who have continued to work and support the service users when they needed it most.”

Councillor Matthew Winnington, Cabinet Member for Health, Wellbeing and Social Care, said,

“We are really proud of the Shared Lives service and the difference it makes to people’s lives, giving them the chance to live in a home and be part of a family while receiving the support to live their life to the full.

“It’s lovely to see what a difference this has made to people this year in particular and are so grateful to all of our Shared Lives Carers. We encourage anyone who is considering whether they could be a Shared Lives Carer to find out more.”

If you would like to find out more about becoming a Shared Lives carer in Portsmouth, please visit the Shared Lives Portsmouth website.