Two families have united to appeal for more people to come forward to become carers with a service that supports East Lothian families who have children and young people with disabilities.

It’s hard to put into words what Share the Care has meant to us

East Lothian Council’s Share the Carers provide essential support to children with disabilities and their families by offering regular breaks in their own home, the child's home or the local community. The breaks give children the opportunity to take part in different activities and make new friends and give parents the opportunity to spend time with others or to recharge their batteries. The council urgently needs more Share the Carers to come forward to provide this life-changing service. Carers are paid and receive full training and support.

Deeon Hills and Yvonne McAulay know first-hand the benefits that Share the Care offers families and carers. The women first met in 2005 when Deeon and her husband Joseph came to meet Yvonne’s son Danny, then 4. Danny has severe and complex needs and the family had been referred for respite to give them some much-needed time to rest and recover from a demanding care routine, and to give Danny an opportunity to meet new people and take part in new activities. Danny is now 19 and the families have enjoyed a lifetime of experiences together.


Yvonne admits that at first she was cynical that anyone could care for Danny and meet his needs as well as she could, and she found the idea of accepting respite support very emotional. However at that first meeting the two women made an astonishing discovery that was to form the start of a close bond which has lasted 15 years. 

“I had spotted a framed photo of Yvonne in army uniform when I came into her house,” explains Deeon. “When she asked me what made me think I could look after her boy, I pointed to the photo and explained that I had one just like it in my house from my own army service.” Incredibly the two women had been part of the same Army regiment, joining the Women’s Royal Army Corp (latterly the Royal Logistics Corp) in 1987 and passing out within eight weeks of each other. While their paths never crossed during their time in the Forces, Yvonne admits that this shared history helped her to feel more confident in Deeon and Joseph’s abilities to care for Danny. It was the start of a relationship which blossomed and has benefited both families enormously. 

Yvonne and her husband Jimmy describe Share the Care as “a lifesaver”. Deeon and Joseph have supported them through life’s celebrations, attending their wedding in 2015 and caring for Danny so the couple could enjoy a honeymoon, as well as its challenges including when Yvonne’s daughter, Mekala Osborne, was in a coma on life support in Vietnam after she contracted a virus in 2019 while travelling. “I would not have been able to get on a flight after receiving the call about Mekala, and Jimmy would not have been able to then join me in Vietnam, without Share the Care supporting Danny,” explains Yvonne. “It’s hard to put into words what Share the Care has meant to us.” 


Asked to sum up Share the Care from carers’ perspectives, Deeon and Joseph are unanimous: “It’s fun”. “You get to have all of the fun of spending time with the child, sharing experiences with them but none of the responsibilities of hospital appointments or dentists or school, although you support those areas as much as you can,” says Deeon. Joseph agrees, adding: “You have all of the fun of the children and the challenges that brings. It’s perfect.”

Both families agree that communication is key to making it work. “Good communication is key even outwith the breaks,” explains Yvonne. “You have to plan.”

Carers can come from all walks of life and previous care experience is not essential as full training and support is offered. The Share the Care team work to match carers’ availability, skills and interests with families who use the service to make it as practical and rewarding as possible for everyone. Carers can provide support from a couple of hours a week or fortnight, to longer breaks such as an overnight stay. Like many services, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted Share the Care as many of their existing carers have retired due to other commitments.

An amazing service

Leann Robinson from East Lothian Council’s Share the Care service said: “Our Share the Carers provide an amazing service for families. Families build up a bond over the years as we can see from Yvonne, Jimmy, Deeon and Joseph and it’s very rewarding to be a part of that.

“We need more Share the Carers to come forward to help us offer these essential breaks and make a real difference for families in our area. Carers can come from all walks of life and we will support them throughout as we do for the families who rely on the breaks. 

“Even a few hours a week or a fortnight can make a huge difference for a family by giving them a chance to do something for themselves, meet friends, spend time with other children in the household or simply rest. 

“We hope that others will be as inspired by Danny’s story as we have been and will come forward to become Share the Carers, making a real difference for families in East Lothian.”

To find out more about Share the Care or call the team on 01875 824090.

Published: Tuesday, 17th May 2022