AN innovative project which sees people from South Tyneside sharing their lives with vulnerable adults is celebrating its 10th anniversary.
The Shared Lives scheme, run by South Tyneside Council, matches adults who need help and a home with people who are happy to provide one – for a night, a week or even indefinitely.
Since it started 10 years ago, the scheme has gone from strength to strength.
More than 60 local people have been recruited to become carers, offering support in a family environment and 38 vulnerable people are living with a family on a long-term basis.
Coun Mary Butler, the council’s lead member for adult social care and support services, said: “This is a terrific scheme because it gives vulnerable adults an opportunity to enjoy all the security and love of family life – a precious thing that most of us take for granted.
“The scheme is also hugely rewarding for the carers, many of whom are driven to give something back to their community.”
To mark the anniversary, a celebration evening was held and carers, past and present, and the people they have supported, were invited.
Among those attending were the first two carers to be recruited to the scheme – Linda Noble and Heather Thurgood – who applied in the same week 10 years ago.
Former carer Heather, 53, of Marsden, South Shields, has opened her home to about 20 vulnerable adults since the scheme started.
Some have stayed for years while others have come for short breaks or for support with basic life skills before they move on to independent living.
Heather, who now shares her home with Daniel, said: “This is the best thing I have ever done in my entire working life.
“We absolutely love the people who come through our door and they feel that.
“They come and open their hearts to us and let us help them.
“If you are kind, honest, caring and open, they feel that and then they are happy and relaxed.
“These people become a part of our family and stay in touch once they have moved on.”
Linda, 63, lives with Maria who has been part of her family for nine years and Dot who has been with her for five years.
Maria was in need of a home when her parents died and Dot joined four years later.
Dot said: “I love living with Linda, it’s absolutely brilliant being part of her family.”
To get involved in Shared Lives, call 0191 424 4403.