Date published: 27 March 2023 by Katie Inglis
Family Support Worker Sharon reflects on her first six months at Rainbow Trust
Sharon became a Rainbow Trust Family Support Worker in June 2022. She recently shared her experience of supporting families in the London and South East, reflecting on the best parts of her jobs, the challenges, and what a day in her life often looks like.
How did you end up working for Rainbow Trust?
‘I spent the last 9 years working as a Family Support Worker within a children’s hospice. Some of the families at the hospice also worked with a Rainbow Trust Family Support Worker so I had a good idea of the support they provided. I really liked the help they were able to give, which was far more than I could offer working in a hospice setting.’
What is the best part of your job?
‘For me it’s all about making a difference, it can just be very small. But walking away from a family at the end of a day, knowing you’ve made their day a little easier in some way – there is nothing quite like that feeling.’
What are some of the challenges you face in your role?
‘I would say one of the challenges we face is that we are working with families who have very busy lives. It’s about slotting seamlessly into their busy lives without being another stress. For them, it’s about letting strangers into their lives and homes, and I am very aware of that. Some of the families I support aren’t used to having this kind of support and are often used to doing things on their own. So, asking for support can be really difficult. It has been really lovely to see the positive outcomes for those families when I have been involved in some way; I had one parent who said to me ‘now I’ve had the Rainbow Trust experience so can understand what it is all about’ which is so encouraging to hear. It’s about breaking those boundaries down for families to accept support and building up those relationships so that they feel comfortable to ask.’
What does a ‘day in your life’ look like?
‘Every day is so varied, so I’ll give an example of one of my days last week. I generally start my day with looking at my emails and catching up on any admin. Then on this particular day, I went to pick up a teenager from her home and took her to the Royal Marsden Hospital. While I waited for her treatment to finish, I was catching up on admin before taking her back home.
The journey was difficult for her, she felt sick and it was necessary for me to stop the car a few times. If I had not given transport to this family, they would have used public transport or a taxi service which would have made her journey even more difficult. I then went on to pick up a sibling from an after-school club but when we arrived at the home her mum was quite upset. She explained that her child had spiked a temperature so she was running around the house trying to get things organised to take him to hospital – she has 3 other children so there were many things for her to do. To help her, I spent time with the sick child, so she was able to get everything organised without worrying about him. I kept him company for over 2 hours, he crept onto my lap for a cuddle and that is where he stayed until his mum was ready. I left the family home much later than I had intended and mum said to me ‘if you weren’t here to help, I wouldn’t have been able get everything done without worrying about my son’. For her, it was just knowing her he was being cared for whilst she was doing the things she needed – it made all the difference to her. It was quite a full day, and relatively unplanned, but that can happen!
I’ve also been supporting a family who are experiencing some financial difficulties, they are really struggling, and have very little toys or games for the children ( 9 years and 2 years). Just before Christmas, mum confided in me that they would not be able to have Christmas as they normally do. Rainbow Trust had been given some donations of toys so I spoke to mum and asked how she’d feel if I gave her some that she could give to her children. She was extremely thankful, so that’s what I did. It was also snowing at this time and the family didn’t have any winter coats or suitable clothing. I spoke to a local charity, who were wonderful. Not only did they provide food hampers for the family, but also vouchers for their charity shop which I was able to use (with mum’s permission) to get suitable clothing for them. For that family, they had a form of a Christmas they could enjoy. Mum was moved to tears as she was so grateful.’
Have there been any surprises with the job?
‘Although I’ve been a Family Support Worker for nearly 20 years, the difference with this role is that I was always working with the family and not with the sick child. I felt that would be my biggest challenge; working with a child with such complex healthcare needs can be overwhelming and a little bit scary and daunting. But it hasn’t felt that way at all, it’s actually allowed me to open up the areas of support that I can offer a family and has given me an added element to the support I can provide.’
How do you cope with the heaviness of the job?
It can be heavy, without a doubt. It’s really important to have a good relationship with your peers and colleagues - they are a big support. We have weekly team meetings where we talk about how our week has been, how we are feeling and any challenges we may have experienced that week. We also have a WhatsApp group where we keep in touch. Once a month we have Managerial and non-managerial supervision, which is important. So I use that, as well as having people in my personal life who are supportive, it’s so important to have that support system when the work can be challenging at times.
What is one of the highlights so being a Family Support Worker?
‘One of the highlights I would say is working with the people I work with. We don’t see each other a lot, generally twice a month but it is so great when we do - I highly respect each and every one of them. I have been so welcomed and the knowledge they share has been very helpful. My highlight is not just the team, but Rainbow Trust as a whole. As an organisation I have felt very supported in every way. Not just physically, but also mentally and emotionally too.’
Would you recommend being a Rainbow Trust Family Support Worker to someone interested in a career in care?
Absolutely – it is just an absolute privilege to work with these families and to be welcomed by them. It’s a varied role and gives you a real sense of purpose and fulfilment in life. When you hear the feedback from families, that something tiny you’ve done has made such a difference, it’s brilliant. I would definitely recommend it.'
If you would like to find out more about becoming a Rainbow Trust Family Support Worker, visit our Jobs and Volunteering page.