Unlucky First Dates star finding more luck matching adults for ‘fostering’ scheme in Banburyshire

Social worker Becky Lee is the perfect matchmaker at work, but when it comes to finding her own love match she’s all out of luck.

Becky, 37, captured the hearts of viewers after appearing not once, but twice, on Channel 4 reality TV show First Dates.

While she might have been out of luck in the romance stakes, Becky is a lot more successful when it comes to matching people through Oxfordshire County Council’s Shared Lives scheme.

“It’s like a fostering placement for adults who for whatever reason can’t live independently or alone,” she explained.

“We work with both carers and those people who use the service and build up those relationships.

“So to be able to come together and work successfully and know that it’s being so beneficial for everyone involved, is hugely rewarding.

Shared Lives social worker Becky Lee. Photo: Oxfordshire County Council NNL-190626-095818001

Shared Lives social worker Becky Lee. Photo: Oxfordshire County Council NNL-190626-095818001

“We meet them and find out what their preferences are – where they’d like to live, what they enjoy doing, what their routines are like and we look at what could potentially be a good match.

“When it works it’s just the best. We’ve had people in placements for years and years and years.

“The lovely ones are where they might spend so long in such a great environment that really empowers that person to become their best self and be independent and they go on to live pretty much independently.

“So to be able to do that within the county is amazing.”

When it works it’s just the best. We’ve had people in placements for years and years.

Shared Lives social worker Becky Lee

Last week was Shared Lives Week 2019 with councils across the country highlighting the life-changing scheme.

The team helps to recruit people ready to share their home and matches them with adults in need of practical and emotional support.

Shared Lives carers provide a home for people in need of adult social care, allowing them to live their lives more fully and independently and feel part of a family household.

It can be anything from occasional short breaks or daytime support through to a longer-term, full-time arrangement. There are currently 80 carers providing a home for about 120 adults in the county and the Shared Lives team is keen to recruit more.

Shared Lives social worker Becky Lee. Photo: Oxfordshire County Council NNL-190626-095829001

Shared Lives social worker Becky Lee. Photo: Oxfordshire County Council NNL-190626-095829001

Becky said: “Being a caring person and opening your heart to people is one thing, but opening up your whole lifestyle and your home and inviting that person in to share with you is really going above and beyond, and that’s what our carers do.

“The ones who live together or have visits there, they’ll be really enjoyable, fulfilling, great placements, the ones that work. We always say it’s all about the match!”

Celebrating carers’ important role

In Shared Lives Week 2019, Northamptonshire County Council is encouraging people to consider taking on the role of being a carer.

Shared Lives can help tackle loneliness, reduce isolation and help people recover after hospital treatment or mental ill health. Shared Lives Northants has been rated as an Outstanding service for two years running.

Last week the Northamptonshire team was once again out and about to catch-up with the Shared Lives community and meet new friends to share experiences with.

Could you be a carer? Stock image for National Carers Week SUS-160519-084448001

Could you be a carer? Stock image for National Carers Week SUS-160519-084448001

Cllr Ian Morris, Northamptonshire County Council cabinet member for adult social care, said: “We want to celebrate the role of a Shared Lives carer and from feedback we have received we know that Shared Lives can consistently make a significant difference to both the carer and the individual.

“The role of a carer is a rewarding one but also in great demand and I would therefore encourage anyone who has a spare room and the right attitude and willingness to truly share their lives with another person, to get in touch with Shared Lives Northants.”

Being a Shared Lives carer is a rewarding job but it is also a personalised and tailored position matched specifically to the carer and the individual.

Emma Davies-Rota of Shared Lives Northants said: “We celebrate Shared Lives week to acknowledge the role of Shared Lives in the community and to raise awareness of the service to the public and professionals throughout the UK.

“Shared Lives helps a wide range of people with a wide range of needs from across the county by promoting independence and encouraging integration in the community.

“Shared Lives Northants provide individual and personalised one-to-one support in a family environment which can sometimes not be achieved in any other care setting.”

For more information about the Northamptonshire scheme, visit www.northamptonshire.gov.uk or call 0300 126 1000.

‘I feel proud to be part of Jane’s life’

All Shared Lives carers receive ongoing support and training from social workers to ensure delivery of high-quality, person-centred care.

They could also be paid up to just over £400 per week for each person they support.

Shared Lives carers can be single people, single parents, couples who live together, married couples, couples with children or friends sharing accommodation.

Applicants need to either own or rent their home, which has a spare bedroom and be willing to share your home with a vulnerable or disabled person.

No qualifications or experience are needed but the scheme will be looking for those who can communicate effectively, build positive relationships and enable people to make choices and decisions.

One carer, who wishes to remain anonymous, said: “Caring for Jane is seen as a job which I am paid for, but really having Jane in our family is a privilege that we are grateful for.

“When I found out I had been approved as a Shared Lives carer, and that I had been matched with Jane, I could not wait for our new lives to start.

“I feel proud to be a part of Jane’s life and I am so glad that I applied to be a Shared Lives carer.

“I have never looked back and neither have my husband and children, Jane included.”

Cllr Lawrie Stratford, cabinet member for adult social care, said: “The support that our carers give makes a huge difference to the lives of people using the service, often enabling them to experience new opportunities and reach new goals.

If you have a spare room to offer and would like to play a key part in making a positive difference to someone’s life, then we really want to hear from you.”

For more information or to apply, call the Oxfordshire Shared Lives Scheme team on 01865 897971 or visit the website: www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/sharedlives

Third time lucky for our Becky?

First Dates catches everything as carefully-paired couples have dinner together and decide whether they want to see each other again or not.

Becky won the nation’s sympathy after her first date checked for football scores on his mobile phone and described her as being ‘too short’.

She said: “It was the most disastrous date ever, much to my obliviousness!

“But if anything, what came out of this huge disaster was the most loveliest outpouring of support and kindness from people who just wanted to reach out and tell me not to worry and not to allow his comments to get me down.”

Becky featured on the show for a second time a week later and things went a lot more smoothly, but her date dashed any hopes of romance when he suggested they remain as friends.

Will Becky be invited back for a third time? Watch this space…