WHEN Michelle Barrett’s younger sister Lesley Anne died suddenly from a blood clot last year, leaving behind three young sons, the Bolton mum-of-two had no hesitation in providing a home for them. The 41-year-old businesswoman coped with a family which doubled overnight while continuing to run the company she co-owns by working from home.

Now, her caring professionalism has been recognised by national networking organisation Forward Ladies which has presented Michelle with a top regional award.

“It was a wonderful surprise,” said Mrs Barrett, who lives with husband Abdul and sons Harun, aged 12, and eight year-old Haris, in Great Lever. “I think Lesley Anne would have approved.” Lesley Anne was just 34 and had been on holiday with her sons Alfie, then just one, Callum, then four and 10 year-old Cameron, and her mum, Eveline, to Somerset.

“They’d had a great timebut Lesley Anne had been complaining of pain around her body and when she came back it got steadily worse,” said Mrs Barrett, Within days, her condition deteriorated and she died at home in Farnworth.

It was later shown she had suffered a DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) in her leg which had travelled to her lungs. “It was a terrible shock — no-one was prepared for it,” said Mrs Barrett.

But she is from a large, supportive family — eight brothers and sisters — and they all rallied round. Michelle’s two sons took one bedroom and Lesley Anne’s three boys another in the three-bedroomed house. Mrs Barrett’s older sister, Anita, and other family members together with the boys’ father were all actively involved in helping, and they struggled into a new routine.

She discovered caring for three more children — cooking, cleaning and sorting out busy daily schedules — created a hectic programme, leaving little time to go out to work.

In 2006, she and her brother-in-law, Ajaz Khan, had started their own mortgage broking business and in 2009, expanded this to handling PPI claims and created Credit Claims in Manchester Road, Burnden.

The business had proved a great success and last year they were in the process of planning new premises and more staff when Lesley Anne died.

“I was in charge of the move and needed to sort out our new office, equip it and supervise the move while Ajaz kept the business running,” said Mrs Barrett. She found the only satisfactory way to juggle her busy home and working life was to make her home her “office” and work from there.

During that time, Credit Claims was shortlisted in the Bolton and Bury Business Awards’ customer care section and won a Highly Commended – an accolade repeated in this year’s awards. Then Mrs Barrett was nominated for the Forward Ladies’ Women in Business award for home working and, at a glitzy event at Manchester’s Midland Hotel, she was announced as the winner. Her growing family has settled down, with Lesley Anne’s young sons now living more regularly with their father, although still enjoying time with their aunts and cousins.