Shared Lives Week: Making a difference to vulnerable adults’ lives

Suzy on the beach with 'host' Maria

This week (June 15-19) is Shared Lives Week.

It celebrates the national service where host families open their homes to support eligible people over the age of 16 including those with learning and physical disabilities, mental health issues, autism or Asperger’s, sensory impairment, older people or those living with dementia.

There are three types of service a host can offer.

Long term – where someone would move in with a host and their family.

Short breaks – where someone would stay for a night or two, weekend or week(s) with the host based on what is needed.

Day support – one session lasting up to 5 hours based at the host’s home and/or out and about in the community.

Nationally Shared Lives has around 14,000 people using the service. In Kent there are 188 approved host families and nearly 250 people using the service which has been running for almost 30 years.

The scheme is an alternative to residential care and offers bespoke, personalised support to eligible adults.

Kent Shared Lives offers eligible people over the age of 16 placements in family settings

Suzy’s story

Suzy is in early 50s with a learning disability. She was living in a residential setting since 1994 before she moved in with her Shared Lives Host Maria, Kevin, their two dogs and a cat.

In the very short space of time since moving in Suzy and Maria accomplished a great deal.

Suzy has been on holiday to Devon, enjoying train rides, going on walks, taking in the scenery, going to the beach and visiting the valley of the rocks.

Suzy was previously prone to trips and falls but now walks with Maria and her two dogs daily and is able to walk much further and no longer trips. Suzy goes on the local swings when on her walk with the dogs, something she thoroughly enjoys, going really high and scaring Maria!

Suzy enjoys cooking with Maria and regularly makes cakes and is able to help prepare meals by cutting up vegetables, giving Suzy a sense of achievement.

Suzy and Maria went on the Shared Lives day event at Brogdale Farm and Suzy particularly enjoyed the tractor trailer ride.

Suzy meets up regularly with some of the people she shared her residential home with and they have done numerous activities including crazy golf, bowling, feeding the ducks and various lunches out! As well as going to a local boot fair and also a local fayre where she played ‘hook a duck’.

Suzy is very proud of her new bedroom which has been decorated in pink and features a large picture of ‘Frozen’ adorned with fairly lights and Suzy says she is very happy in her new home.

Hosts Kevin and Maria

Suzy and Maria with memory walk medals

My husband Kevin (49) and I, Maria (48) met in 2004. At the time, Kevin was lorry driving but then set up as a sole trader doing ground works. Later we set up a company with a partner doing road maintenance for Kent County Council but eventually sold our share. We now have a haulage company and are hoping to expand in the future. Kevin has 3 children and I have 2. My son lives at home but works full time and is our youngest at 18.

I have enjoyed care work for many years starting at 17 when I became a personal carer for a lovely elderly couple with Parkinson’s disease. I moved on to caring for EMI patients and also worked in nursing and residential homes. It was whilst working in a home supporting adults with learning disabilities and additional social and health care needs that I had the pleasure of meeting Suzy. Suzy (52) has a learning disability and is a real pleasure to know.

When the home was to be closed I applied to become a Shared Lives Host for Suzy because I felt I and my family could offer Suzy the right kind of support to help her have quality of life and achieve a more active social life. Suzy has done so much since living in our care and has enjoyed a holiday and a variety of activities and experiences.

Our children, Kevin and I treat Suzy as family and she joins in with everything we do. Suzy loved a sports and Bushtucker trial event we hosted for family and friends which was enjoyed by all. Suzy is gaining confidence and enjoys new challenges and meeting new people.

Time spent together is happy for us all. I love being a Shared Lives Host, I find it so rewarding and it is lovely to offer Suzy so many more opportunities. Walking our dogs, meals out and meeting friends, some being other adults Suzy shared her previous home with, always brings smiles and happiness. I feel I am very fortunate to have had the opportunity to become a host. although it can be a life changing decision, words cannot express the happiness we feel in making make Suzy’s life special, safe and secure and giving opportunities that she may not have had the chance to experience in a residential home.

There are so many positive things, too many to list but I know how excited we all are in looking forward to our first Christmas together. I wish all new hosts all the best and may I praise the Shared Lives team for all the support they give to help the host and adult to settle into their new life.


Douglas was 52 and living with his elderly father. He had put on weight, due to lack of exercise and rarely left the house.

His family initially decided that he would be moved to a residential home. However someone mentioned that he may be suitable for Shared Lives and he was referred across. His brother initially was not happy with the idea that he would move in with another family but met the host family and decided to give it a go.

Douglas moved in with Rod and Lee and has been living with them for 2 years, along with another Shared Lives user called Noel. During his time he:

  • has lost 5 stone
  • has developed a love of walking the dog
  • is often out of the house and uses the bus system all on his own.

Douglas is now involved in trampolining, cricket, he works at the local stables and has been on holiday for the first time in 20 years. With Rod and Lee’s consistent and continuous support he has transformed into a more independent and happier person. Douglas’s brother now thinks that Shared Lives is the best thing that could ever possibly have happened to him.

By sharing their life, Rod and Lee have radically changed Douglas’s life for the better.

Find out how to become a Shared Lives Host here