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For Betsy, Suzanne isn’t just a sibling support worker. She’s a real friend

Ten-year-old Betsy understands why her older brother Lucas’ needs take up so much of her parents’ time. But after her mum and dad fell ill with coronavirus in March, and Lucas spent a month at a nearby hospice while they recovered, her anxiety levels soared.

“Looking after Lucas and the two girls is really demanding,” explains Betsy’s mum, Rachel. “It’s a military operation making sure that you’ve got everything for him.”

When coronavirus hit and both she and husband Jason became too ill to cope, they turned to Children’s Hospice South West (CHSW) for help.

Just like they have since Lucas was a baby, the staff at Little Harbour in Cornwall, one of CHSW’s three children’s hospices, were there to offer all their support, looking after Lucas for over a month until it was safe for him to come home.

But with lockdown in force and the family self-isolating while Lucas was away, there was nowhere Betsy could go and nothing she could do to distract herself from her worries.

“It’s really hard for siblings of children that have complex disabilities. Betsy worried a lot, and it reached a peak when Lucas had just come back to us,” remembers Rachel. “Lucas was having a lot of our time, and her anxieties came out as wanting constant reassurance.”

A special kind of support

Once again, Little Harbour was there to help. Betsy was put in contact with Suzanne, a sibling support worker at Little Harbour, who helped Betsy talk about her feelings and gave her the time and attention she needed to feel supported and safe.

Like so many other organisations helping children with their emotional needs and mental challenges, Little Harbour finds its services more in demand than ever right now. Only through the generosity of the British public is BBC Children in Need able to part-fund its activities and pay for vital sibling support workers like Suzanne.

Spending time with Suzanne helps Betsy forget her fears for Lucas and her parents and gives her space just to be a little girl again.

“She needed that solid interaction of somebody just giving her 100 per cent,” says Rachel.

While for Betsy, the good thing about having a friend she can call on when she’s sad or simply bored are the same as for the rest us:

“Suzanne, she’s very, very funny. She likes knowing what I’ve been doing, and chatting to her, just random things, feels good.”

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