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Sharing family life

Being part of a family is important to most of us, yet sometimes – for all sorts of reasons – people with learning disabilities miss out.

Take Miriam, for example. Though British-born she had spent most of her life in Nigeria living with her grandparents. In 2014, when Miriam was 25, her grandparents brought her back to London because they thought she would have better opportunities here. Things didn’t work out and when social services referred Miriam to us she was living an isolated life in temporary accommodation with her grandma. She was shy, found communication difficult and was having seizures at night.

After getting to know Miriam we introduced her to Bernadette, who worked for Choice Support as a support worker. Bernadette was interested in finding a different pattern of work and becoming a shared lives carer. Shared lives used to be called adult fostering. The idea is that people needing support are matched with a shared lives carer, and become connected with the carer’s family and social life in different ways.

Bernadette applied to become a shared lives carer, was assessed by an independent panel, and once registered was matched with Miriam. The pair hit it off straight away. They share the same cultural and religious background, and Miriam views Bernadette as a grandmother figure. Miriam moved into Bernadette’s home, initially for six months. Things worked so well that this was extended.

“Shared lives costs less than other forms of care; on average £26,000 a year cheaper for people with learning disabilities.” Shared Lives Plus, the UK network for shared lives services.

Miriam is taking several college courses to improve her English and numeracy, and is training to work in catering. She has re-established contact with her sisters living in London, and also has become a part of Bernadette’s family, attending many family gatherings and parties. Miriam and Bernadette go to church together, and plan to visit Nigeria, as they’ve discovered that they both have relatives living in the same region. Miriam’s confidence has grown. She now speaks freely, travels independently, and can happily spend time on her own. Currently the plan is for Miriam to move into her own flat after 18 months with Bernadette. When that happens Miriam will keep in touch with Bernadette, and might go for short stays with her from time to time.


This is Miriam and Joanne making friends at a picnic in Crystal Palace Park, which we organised for people supported by families in shared lives arrangements.



Because everyone is different each shared lives arrangement is unique. Here are some other examples of how it can work:

Please get in touch if you:

  • would like a shared lives service
  • work for a local authority and would like to discuss shared lives
  • are interested in becoming a shared lives carer.

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Contact us

Contact our shared lives team

Email: shared.lives@choicesupport.org.uk
or telephone: 0207 261 4100

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