Family placement transforms life for man with complex needs

Quarriers, one of Scotland’s leading social care charities is improving the lives of older people with complex needs by enabling them to live within caring families through its specialised Shared Lives Family Placement Service.

73-year-old Tommy is one of those adults whose lives has been transformed by the care and attention he has received since coming to live with Alice and William Gilligan in Bargeddie, North Lanarkshire. His speech has improved, he is making his own choices and he is enjoying holidays and days out as part of a family.

But it isn’t all one way; both Alice (62) and William (64) say life without Tommy would now be unimaginable.

Alice said:

“Tommy is just part of our lives now. We wouldn’t know what to do with ourselves if Tommy wasn’t here.”

Alice knows all about caring. As one of eight children whose mum worked three jobs to keep the family together, she’s been taking charge from a young age, and earlier experience of fostering gave the couple confidence to take a vulnerable adult into their own home.

Tommy first came to stay for two weeks when his carer at that time had health issues, and soon he had moved in permanently. Seven years on and he is very much part of the family, encouraged in his hobbies, which include playing bowls and watching Bonanza, enjoying days out and having the independence to spend his own money and make his own decisions, including voting in elections.

The difference Alice and William have made to Tommy’s life is evident. He’s happy and contented, his vocabulary has improved, he’s better able to communicate and he is experiencing new things all the time.

Alice and William undergo an annual review with Quarriers looking at all aspects of their caring roles.

As Diane Glendye, Quarriers Supervising Social Worker, explains:

“They tell us all about Tommy and his achievements, and we constantly remind them of the great job they are doing. When Tommy was in hospital last year, they never left his side. That is surely more than caring, that’s love.”

Tommy is accepted and included by all Alice and William’s friends and family. Wherever he wants to go, they go too. And this includes family get-togethers, holidays, and invites to friends’ houses.

Alice and William do need a break sometimes, and that comes in the form of their daughter and Tommy’s respite carer, Sharon. Consistency is important to Tommy, so the fact that Alice and William’s daughter takes over means that Tommy can stay at home when the Gilligans are away.

Alice and William know what it is like to welcome someone into their home on a permanent basis.

Alice added:

“It is a big decision. If you are caring for someone with learning difficulties it’s important to understand the commitment you are making. It does involve the social aspect as well as personal care – it’s the whole package of what that person needs and wants. But Tommy is just part of our lives now.”

William said:

“I don’t know who gets more out of this, Tommy or us.”

To find out more about Quarriers’ Shared Lives Service, visit: or call 0141 954 1010.