A HOSPICE charity is looking for volunteers to help offer support to children whose loved ones are seriously ill or who may have died.

Rennie Grove Hospice Care is aiming to fill newly-created roles right across its nursing catchment throughout Bucks and Herts.

Successful applicants for the Children’s Support Volunteer vacancies will help in providing pre and post-bereavement support for children and young people aged up to 18.

Children’s Support Facilitator Karen Neill, whose role at Rennie Grove is funded by the Pepper Foundation, said: "The young clients these volunteers will be supporting will have a parent, sibling or close relative who is either seriously ill or who has died.

"They’ll be helping to empower the parents or main carer to support the child - and where appropriate provide one-to-one support for the child or young person either at home or at school."

Their tasks will include discussing a child’s needs with their parent or carer, then offering support - using creative activities and play where appropriate. Karen added: "For example, this could include making memory boxes or using puppets or art and craft materials as an alternative way to express thoughts and feelings."

Donna Hetherington explains how her daughter Daynah and the whole family benefited from Karen’s support when her husband David was ill: "Daynah was only 10 when her dad was diagnosed with Portal Vein Thrombosis. The vein leading to his liver became blocked and it was inoperable.

"He was 44 when he died but we had the support of the Iain Rennie nurses for over a year. As he got weaker, Daynah found it increasingly difficult to cope with her dad being so ill. I was worried and spoke to the nurses, who referred us to the charity’s Family Support Team."

"Our house is quite small so it was great that Karen arranged to spend an hour with Daynah every month – or more often if she needed it – at her school. So much of the support was done through play – using pictures, coloured pebbles, puppets - which seemed so much more effective than if Dave or I tried to talk to her about such a serious, sensitive issue.

"As parents it helped us tremendously to know that someone outside the family was helping her. And whilst we knew confidentially would be maintained, we also knew that Karen would pass on anything she judged that we should know. This gave us peace of mind and we could both see the difference in Daynah.

"After her sessions with Karen she’d come home tired, but she’d sleep so well that night. Karen’s support helped us all. Daynah had a better understanding of what was happening and although Dave was worried about the future, seeing Daynah cope with Karen’s support made things easier for him too."

The need for this new role has arisen because the charity is caring for more patients each year, which creates a corresponding rise in the number of children and young people affected by life-limiting illness close to home.

Successful candidates will have excellent listening and communication skills, an ability to empathise with others and enthusiasm to work as part of a team as well as previous experience of working with and supporting children or young people.

A full UK driving license and use of a vehicle is also necessary.

All applicants must successfully complete the initial Rennie Grove training course for this role and be prepared to commit around eight hours per month during the working week, including attendance at additional training workshops as required.

For more details visit go to www.renniegrove.org/volunteer or contact the Volunteer Services Team on 01442 507321.

The closing date for applications is Friday, February 28.