For every child who visits Bluebell Wood for a helping hand, there are often brothers and sisters struggling to make sense of what their family is going through.

That’s why at Bluebell Wood, as part of our package of 'wraparound’ care for the whole family, we have a dedicated Sibling Support Coordinator who’s there to make sure siblings always have somewhere else to turn.

For Bluebell Wood’s Claire Dukes, the role of Sibling Support Coordinator was her ‘dream job’. After  taking on a six year part-time Open University degree in psychology alongside her previous full-time job -  as well as volunteering at both Rotherham Hospice and Bluebell Wood - her tireless work finally paid off.

“I’ve always wanted to work with children in a family support role, in something that directly benefits children,” said Claire.

“So when the opportunity at Bluebell Wood came up, I knew it was my dream job. It was what I’d wanted to do since the very start of my degree. I’ve always wanted to do something meaningful, something that really helps people.”

No two days are the same for Claire, who spends her time at the hospice and visiting siblings of children who have life-shortening and life-threatening conditions at their schools. This ranges from 1-1 emotional and bereavement support to fun groups where siblings can gather, share their experiences or just enjoy being the centre of attention.

“Siblings of children supported by Bluebell Wood can often have a totally different life to most other children, and they will carry that experience with them throughout the rest of their lives,” said Claire.

“So it’s partly about giving them some normality – giving them that typical childhood experience that so many of us take for granted."

 “On the therapeutic side, they get the chance to speak to someone neutral. They often don’t want to talk to their parents as they can be scared of upsetting them.

“I always tell them that it’s their time – just for them – so it’s about that attention that all children need, as well as explaining why they may not get as much of it from their parents. The most important thing is to make a connection with the child, while having plenty of laughs along the way.

“What we’re offering is incredibly important, not only to the siblings, but to the whole family who can often feel guilty that so much of their time is dedicated to looking after a child with complex needs.”

One family who use Bluebell Wood’s sibling support services say it’s like a “weight being lifted”.

Jessica Tidmarsh, whose little brother Edward has a life-shortening condition, calls Claire “her helper”.

“I think she really appreciates having her there to talk to about things that she doesn’t really talk to anyone else about,” said mum Heather.

“I’ve worried a lot about how Jessica feels in relation to her brother, and it’s a real relief to know that there’s someone there that she can talk to because she doesn’t talk that openly to us, despite our best efforts.

“As parents we have a lot of guilt around the sibling getting side-lined so this is something for them, and it’s their own special thing.

“It’s like a weight’s been lifted to know she has that support if she’s worried about something, or trying to figure something out. Claire’s so approachable and has been absolutely fantastic.”

“To know that there is somebody else there for Jessica makes such a big difference.”