Dorset’s disability charity, Diverse Abilities, has launched a new service for siblings of children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities.
STARs, standing for Supportive, Thoughtful And Resilient, is a 12-week programme of support, advice, and activities for those aged eight to 16. It aims to reduce the pressure they are under by providing an environment where they can access support and advice, but also take part in activities, make friends, and be themselves.
Clare Rochford, one of the Children’s Team managers at Diverse Abilities, commented: “There’s a big gap in provision for siblings and I felt as a team we could definitely meet this need. We know a lot of the siblings of the children we support really well and have designed a service with the aim of supporting them.”
The service launched in late April following funding from Children in Need. The grant of more than £6,500 has helped with the research and planning process, as well as supplies for activities. Clare has been leading the development of the service from her experience growing up with her sister who has a rare genetic condition called Smith-Magenis Syndrome.
Clare added: “It’s important to provide an opportunity that enables young people to realise they are not alone, hopefully giving them a support network which will last far longer than however long they wish to attend our sessions, because in my experience, being a sibling never ends.”
A report, published by Sibs in late 2020, reviewed how SEN siblings had been affected by lockdown:
- 81 per cent said their sibling child’s mental health had worsened
- 43 per cent of siblings were providing more care in lockdown
- 40 per cent of young siblings were feeling isolated and missing support from family and friends
- 54 per cent of parents said that respite or a break would have helped siblings cope
One parent of the STARs service said: “Thank you, at long last someone is thinking of the siblings.” Visit diverseabilities.org.uk/stars to register and find out more about the service.