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James wins National Shared Lives Award

James Harris from Botton village is the winner for this year’s Human Rights Award for free expression at the national Shared Lives awards, nominated by Avalon Group

Shared Lives is a unique caring arrangement enabling more than 10,000 people with a learning or physical disability, mental ill health, dementia or other ongoing social care needs, to share their carer’s home and family life. Shared Lives carers are assessed and approved by local Shared Lives schemes, run by Avalon Group in North Yorkshire to open up their own homes and lives to people who want social care support in the community, and are paid for their commitment.

Before finding Shared Lives, James lived in a supported living setting. James is someone who values his independence and who enjoys the outdoors, and found that neither of these values were being enjoyed where he was.

James raised this issue with his support provider, and after being unsatisfied with the follow up actions, he made the decision to move back with his parents so that he could assess what he wanted from his life, and make his own positive choices.

He carried out his own research with his parents’ help, and this is when he discovered Shared Lives; he felt this would offer him all he was hoping from a support placement.

A placement was identified at Danby Village (Avalon’s Botton scheme) and James moved to a Shared Lives household that is also a working farm with vegetable growing, and which prioritises living a sustainable life.

James met the carers and voiced his own passion for the outdoors. He heard about the plan to develop 5 acres of land for new produce growing initiatives, and he was thrilled by the idea.

James has taken a real lead since moving to Shared Lives, and through the connections he has made at Danby village, has made more and more choices to work in new areas, and find rewarding vocations:

  • James is a lead grower, responsible for fields of vegetables, fruits and herbs.

  • He has also secured a position at the local bakery, making bread and arranging deliveries; James also manages the bakery email account and responds to all the positive feedback they get about the quality of their bread

  • James is the main point of contact for visitors to the farm, and delivers tours of the land, explaining how the area was developed and about the various produce they grow

  • More recently, James has volunteered to join a team on a large scale tree planting project, whose aim is to conserve the local landscape for the future

James often states how much he loves his home, and being involved in the work he does and that he really enjoys life.

This year Shared Lives Awards nominations were made by Shared Lives members from up and down the UK, which makes James’s national recognition all the more special.

Ewan King, CEO of Shared Lives Plus, says, “The Shared Lives Plus awards are an opportunity for us to recognise the fantastic work done by those giving and receiving Shared Lives care across the UK.

“Though this award is focused on individuals, our winners are symbolic of the attitude and commitment of all our members. A lot of nominations were made, and competition was very tough. The awards panel had a hard job on their hands, as Shared Lives carers have opened their homes to people in the toughest circumstances, and through lockdown, with very few breaks or recognition.

Shared Lives enables people to live how they want to, with people they have chosen, and have chosen them. These mutually beneficial relationships are transformative and we’re delighted to honour James with the Human Rights Award.”

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