People are being encouraged to open their homes and their lives to disabled and elderly people.

Sutton Council's Shared Lives scheme invites people to support some of the borough's most isolated and vulnerable citizens by giving people the chance to let an elderly or disabled person live with them, stay with them for a short break or just take them for a day trip.

There are 31 vulnerable people in Sutton living with another family as part of the Shared Lives Scheme and 14 others receiving temporary respite but the council is looking to recruit more people to take part in the scheme.

Sutton couple Chris and Juanita Miles look after three adults - Vipul, David and Chris. Vipul moved in with them in 2003 despite them having two children of their own.

Mr Miles said: "My wife worked as a childminder and taught me a great deal about how to be a carer; we wanted to do something worthwhile so the shared lives programme was ideal.

"It has been a fantastic experience that has been massively rewarding, we have been able to extend our family and offer a loving and caring experience for those coming to live with us. We have introduced the guys to our friends and taken them on family holidays. It is definitely been a better experience for them than living in residential care.

"It can be hard work and would not suit everybody but if you do have the time and commitment then it really is such a rewarding and positive experience."

Volunteers do not need any qualifications, just time to spare and room in their home. Volunteers receive regular support from council social service workers and get a three-to-six-month training course. All costs associated with the scheme are covered by the council.

Councillor Colin Steers, chairman of the adult services and health committee, said: "Shared Lives carers make a wonderful contribution towards supporting vulnerable people in Sutton."

To find out more, call 020 8770 4358.