Rainbow Trust Family Support Workers: Meet Angela

Image shows Angela Sharples, who was interviewed for this story when she was working at Rainbow Trust as a Family Support Worker.

Rainbow Trust Family Support Workers provide social palliative care, the essential support a family needs alongside medical care to help families with a seriously ill child face each day as it comes. 

Each Family Support Worker covers a similar geographical area to the Kentown specialist nurses providing practical and emotional support to the whole family. The programme acknowledges that the clinical care a child receives is vital to the child’s wellbeing. However, the whole family also may need individual practical and emotional support. This support can last for as long as a family needs it, throughout a child’s illness and into bereavement and afterwards. Family Support Workers work in collaboration with the clinical teams and family service coordinators, enabling families to spend more time together when it matters most.  

Meet Angela 

Can you explain your role in a few sentences? 

I am one of five Kentown Family Support Workers. I support 15 families across Lancaster, Blackpool, Preston, Blackburn and Bury. 

I provide practical and emotional support to families, whenever they need it, for as long as is needed. My role is hugely varied and can include: listening to families’ fears; driving them to medical appointments; keeping a seriously ill child company in hospital; and sibling support. 

A large part of my role is supporting siblings of a seriously ill child, who can feel overlooked. Organising after school care and arts and crafts activities gives brothers and sisters an outlet to process their emotions and provides much-needed respite for parents.  

Looking back over the past year, what has been a highlight? 

All three elements within The Kentown Children’s Palliative Care Programme work together as one, with efficient information sharing, building trust with families and providing them with the best possible care in one setting. The collaborative approach has enabled us to reach and refer more families in need earlier. Being able to access different strands of support quickly and easily helps alleviate stress for families, having a positive impact on their mental health.   

What is your favourite thing about your job? 

A favourite aspect of my role is the sibling support days held every half term at the zoo, the circus, the trampoline park, or farm. 

Can you see the programme making a difference to the families you support? 

Absolutely. Without the collaboration it would just be a lot slower. Families would not have the contacts and the connection would not be there. We all work as a team. 

One example of families accessing help swiftly was when a parent who had financial struggles received £150 worth of food the next day because the Family Support Workers liaised with the Family Service Coordinators who sourced a grant. Another family accessed a grant for new flooring, equipment, and an allotment. We receive great feedback from families saying that working together has improved family life greatly. It’s fantastic. We can work so quickly. It helps relieve stress and the impact on their mental health. It has been an amazing year. 

Siblings who have a seriously ill brother or sister are going through a traumatic time at home so it’s lovely to take them out and see their faces light up. They feel special and it’s very rewarding.” 

“This involves difficult conversations. When the nurse liaises with me we can be more respectful when we go into the family’s home. We have insight into where a child is at medically. We are all just a phone call away.”