Scheme which sees South Tynesiders share their home with disabled adults praised by watchdogs

Jo Penny, with husband David, Paul Weightman and Cllr Tracey Dixon.
Jo Penny, with husband David, Paul Weightman and Cllr Tracey Dixon.

An innovative scheme which sees people in South Tyneside sharing their home with adults with a learning disability has been officially endorsed.

The Shared Lives scheme, which involves adults with a learning disability living with approved carers, has been rated “Good” by the Care Quality Commission.

It’s the best thing I have ever done.

Jo Penny

The report is particularly welcome as there are plans to extend the offer of the Shared Lives programme to other groups of people who require support to maintain independent living, including those with physical disabilities and dementia.

The rating comes as no surprise to carers Jo and David Penny who have been involved with the scheme for around six years. The couple care for two men, Paul Weightman, 38, and 28-year-old Michael Baines.

David said: “We think the scheme is great. The training and support is fantastic and we just love being able to give something back.”

Jo had always wanted to work in caring and decided to follow in the footsteps of one of her friends and apply to Shared Lives.

She said: “I wish I had done it sooner, it is the best thing I have ever done. There is a great Shared Lives community, everyone knows everyone and we enjoy social nights out, trips and holidays together.”

Paul joined the family six years ago, initially for just one night but has been with Jo and David ever since.

He said: “When I first came it was just before Christmas. I saw the lights and the Christmas tree and I thought it must be a dream house. I thought this was the family for me and I am very happy.”

Paul believes in the magic of Christmas and the family are going on holiday to Lapland later this year.

The CQC inspectors found the service to be safe, effective, caring, well-led and responsive. They found people were supported to lead fulfilled lives and to be part of the community. They had access to a range of activities, holidays and leisure pursuits.

Coun Tracey Dixon, lead member for Wellbeing and Independence, said: “Living in a secure, loving home is something many of us take for granted but is not something all us necessarily expect to have.

“Having this network of carers means that more people can benefit from a home and family life and all the benefits that come with this.”

She added: “We know that people want to live in and be connected to their community as much as possible and this scheme allows vulnerable people to do just that.

“We believe there are many more people in the community who would benefit from this offer which is why we are looking to include more people such as those needing help after being discharged from hospital, people with physical disabilities and those with dementia.”

To find out more about the Shared Lives scheme, call 0191 424 4439 or visit www.southtyneside.gov.uk/sharedlives