|You’ve got a friend in me
“It’s like having an extended member of the family” is the way a woman from Wigan has described being a champion for a local support service.
Jeanette Lancaster signed up to be a volunteer for Wigan Council’s Shared Lives service because she had some time on her hands and wanted to give something back.
She was delighted when she became the champion for Philip Rostron, from Atherton, who was living alone and had lost a lot of his independence after a fall had left him in a wheelchair.
Shared Lives provides companionship to adults who need support due to disability, age or illness. When an adult is referred to the service they get matched with a volunteer who shares similar interests and will be their champion.
Each week when Jeanette visits Philip they go out into the town centre, to visit his brother or to a local café or pub. His time spent with Jeanette is the only time Philip leaves the house.
Jeanette said: “Me and Philip clicked immediately, had the same sense of humour and could share life experiences.
“I was nervous coming into it. I had some time on my hands with my job. It sounds cheesy but people have been good to me over the years and I wanted to give something back. You’ve got a lot of support with Shared Lives.
“I always say now I’ve made some extra friends and it’s honestly the best thing I’ve done.
“When I first met up with Philip we were both weary but when he said to me the television was becoming his best friend I could really see where I was making a difference. It pulled at my heart strings and I wanted to give it a try.”
Since working with Shared Lives Jeanette has even helped Philip reunite with his long-lost brother.
Jeanette said: “Philip’s brother, Peter, lives in extra care facilities in Farnworth. Philip spoke to me about how much he was dying to reconnect with his brother and he thought he had an idea of where he was.
“It was through chatting and through our trips out in the community that he remembered the chapel may know where he was.
“We then found a transport service who are very flexible and keeps the cost affordable so we could make the reunion happen which was fantastic.”
Philip said: “Shared Lives really has changed my life. At first it was difficult because my brother’s deaf and he doesn’t always wear his hearing aids. Once we got through the difficulties I was so happy to reconnect with him. I was over the moon. I thought I would never see him again.”
He has also reconnected with the chapel he was part of and has been able to regain some independence.
Philip said he is feeling much happier now and Jeanette has seen an improvement in his overall health and wellbeing.
Jeanette said: “You can also help in other areas and make sure someone’s needs are being met. Philip’s wheelchair is too wide to fit through the doors in this flat so I’m helping him sort that out so he can have better access to his community.
Anyone aged over 18 can become a champion for Shared Lives and will be matched with someone who will suit their personality. It is up to the champion how many hours they volunteer or what support they can provide and, in return for volunteering their time, the champion receives a modest expense payment.
Stuart Cowley, director for adult social care and health at Wigan Council, said: “What we’re trying to do is build friendships. There are many residents across the borough who may be isolated and lonely and simply need a friend. We need more champions – local people with big hearts who want to volunteer and make a difference.”
To find out more about becoming a Shared Lives champion email email@example.com or call 01942 487044.