Siblings’ needs often come second to those of their brother or sister, due to the demands of care on parents, and the limited support available for those families. To mark Derian House’s 25th anniversary, Natalie Walker finds out more about the care on offer for siblings.
Derian House, in Chorley, set up its Sibling Support service in November 2015, offering a dedicated range of activities specific to siblings to support them in both pre and post bereavement situations.
This vital support can be tailored to each family’s individual circumstances and experiences.
Requests can come direct from children and young people themselves, families, schools or any other professional involved with the sibling, thus ensuring that no child or young person in need of this crucial support package slips through the net.
Derian’s support includes one to one sessions, sibling clubs, satellite groups, treasure days, pebbles group, advocacy and counselling.
They enable siblings to be a ‘child’ rather than a ‘carer’, providing them with coping strategies that will help them throughout their lives.
Rosie Gorman, sibling support co-ordinator, said: “It is hugely important to use to have this support. A lot of our families have children with life limiting conditions and a lot of attention goes on the poorly child.
“They can feel quite isolated and left out.
“We provide a service for siblings in their own right which makes them feel more involved. They have someone outside their family to talk about their concerns and share their experiences with their peers.
“We have a club which runs every month for siblings aged eight to 13. It offers children the chance to meet up and have fun. It is peer to peer support where they can share experiences and make unique friendships. We do a lot of activities, such as arts and crafts, baking and play games.
“We also go on outings every school holiday, taking them to crazy golf, the cinema or for something to eat.
“We also offer pre and post bereavement support for siblings. We have treasure days, once a year for siblings to remember their loved ones.
“Our support is tailored individually as although our siblings share similar experiences, no two journeys are ever the same.
“We can provide one-on-one sessions where myself our my colleague Lucy Maxwell, visits the child and takes them out.”
Eight-year-old Zuny Rizvi, of Preston, has been attending support sessions for more than a year.
Her brother, Zayn, nine, has congenital hypomyelinating neuropathy, which stops signals to the brain, making him immobile.
She said: “I love visiting because it makes me lots of memories. All the staff are lovely and kind, especially Rosie.
“I have been swimming at Bamber Bridge and I go to Danni’s Club, where I do painting and dancing.”
Her mum, Natasha, 36, said: “The outreach nurse introduced us to Derian House, as I had no clue we had this help.
“Zayn’s condition means he can’t do anything so I have to care for him 24/7. He is peg fed and cannot talk or do anything. You have to do everything for him as he can’t do anything.
“My husband, Rehan, also gets involved and Zuny helps out too.
“As a result, I can’t give Zuny any time. I can’t take her to see her friends and she doesn’t go to any after school clubs.
“I can’t really take Zayn out because he has a tracheostomy to breathe so it is hard in cold weather.
“We don’t have any other family and nobody comes over. Life for Zuny is just school, home, TV and Zayn.
“But luckily Zuny has started Sibling Support at Derian. She goes once a month and she does all sorts. They have taken her to see a film, McDonalds, she does colouring, painting and dancing.
“She really enjoys it and she is a lot happier. It has boosted her confidence.
“It is a break for me and for her. It makes me feel less guilty because I know she is happy doing something.
“Derian House is really friendly. In fact, it is our family. Everybody knows us. They are the only people I know since Zayn was born.”
Hannah Kent has been accessing sibling support for the last 17 years,
Her brother Alix, 24, has Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD).
Hannah, 22, said; “This support is different to having friends at home. Everyone here is in the same situation. We all do activities to take away the stress of being at home and seeing all the problems going on.
“When you speak to other siblings you can relate to each other. They may be going through something completely different but they understand. Friends at home don’t understand your situation as they are not going through that stress of having a disabled sibling.”