Toni Sharrett has been using the Independent Lives information and advice, payroll, and banking services for the past year. We spoke to her about her support, and the difference it’s made to her family.

My son, Colby, was born in 2014. At first, we didn’t realise he was any different, he was a happy little baby who loved to smile and giggle. As time moved on, Colby was eventually diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. This was a difficult time for our family, as we of course wanted to support him as best as we could, but this was a new world to us, and we weren’t quite sure where to start. We were put in touch with lots of different support groups, but ultimately it was his school, Palatine, who put us in touch with Independent Lives.

To begin with, I was very nervous and didn’t know what to expect. Up until this point, we had been relying on various support groups as well as informal support from friends and family. Everything was being organised by my husband and me which was challenging, and left us with little time for respite.

Independent Lives supported us with everything we needed, and informed us that it would be possible to hire my sister as Colby’s formal personal assistant, which isn’t something we had considered before. He was already very familiar with my sister, so it was a perfect fit. All of the administrative stresses are dealt with by Independent Lives too. They organise Colby’s direct payment through their payroll and banking services to ensure that my sister is paid the correct amount each month, which also includes managing the tax payment, holiday pay etc. It’s made everything so much easier for our family.

Colby is now thriving thanks to the stability and support Independent Lives have provided. He stayed away from the house for the first time last year, he holds my sister’s hand, and he’s even been to a local theme park; he never would have walked through big crowds a couple of years ago.

I can’t fault any of the support I’ve received on my journey. The school, support groups, and social worker were all incredible. They all led me to Independent Lives, who continue to provide a perfect person-centred service for our family.