Children’s Hospice Association Scotland

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 18th September 2019.

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Photo of Miles Briggs Miles Briggs Conservative

I thank members from across the chamber who supported my motion and allowed this debate to take place, and I warmly welcome to Parliament the CHAS staff, supporters and volunteers who have joined us in the public gallery this evening, ahead of CHAS’s annual reception, which will be held in the garden lobby after the debate.

I pay tribute to each and every one of CHAS’s staff and volunteers for the massive contribution that they make to the provision of world-class levels of care and support to babies, children and young people with life-shortening conditions across our country. [


.] We owe them a debt of gratitude for what they do for our constituents and for the families that we represent here in Parliament.

CHAS works across the whole of Scotland. Its two hospices, at Robin house in Balloch and at Rachel house in Kinross, are centres of excellence in care that provide both respite and end-of-life care and support. Having previously visited Rachel house on a number of occasions, I was delighted to visit Robin house with my colleague, Maurice Corry, last month. It was a great honour to meet the staff there and see the huge difference that they make for families.

As I was writing my speech for tonight’s debate, I was thinking about what word could describe Robin house and Rachel house, and I do not really think that I can come up with one. I could, perhaps, use “haven” or “oasis”, but those words simply do not do the hospices justice. They are special and magical places, and Scotland should be immensely proud that we, as a nation, have an organisation such as CHAS that provides such support in such beautiful and state-of-the-art facilities.

Last year alone, Robin house and Rachel house were able to provide more than 12,200 overnight stays for children and families, while the CHAS at home team provided care and support in homes across all regions of Scotland, including our remote, rural and island communities, with bases in Inverness, Aberdeen, Balloch and Kinross. CHAS also has specialist teams in hospitals across Scotland, with dedicated consultants, nurses and CHAS Diana children’s nurses who deliver care in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Inverness. Here in my region of Lothian, CHAS makes a huge contribution to local families through supporting neonatal memory making at the Simpson centre, as well as part funding a consultant neonatologist who is based there.

CHAS has formed a major new partnership with the Royal hospital for children in Glasgow, whose new paediatric supportive and palliative care team is now entirely funded by CHAS. Two specialist nurses work alongside a consultant in paediatric palliative medicine to share specialist knowledge and improve care for children who—sadly—are likely to die young. They also work to ensure that the intensive support that their families need is provided. Their aim is to ensure that children who have palliative care needs, and their families, experience consistently high-quality care and support.

As my motion states, the number of babies, children and young people in Scotland who are aged between zero and 21 and who have life-shortening conditions is currently almost 16,000, and that number is increasing. CHAS already supports more than 465 of those babies and children, which represents a 25 per cent increase over the past five years. For every child who CHAS sees, it supports—on average—a further five family members as well.

Last year, CHAS’s at home service made 1,205 visits, which represents a 30 per cent increase over the past five years. CHAS also provided support to 84 families whose babies, children or young people sadly died last year. CHAS’s 864 volunteers donated an incredible 59,310 hours to the children and families who they supported, and the fantastic team of supporters and voluntary fundraisers raised a remarkable £8.7 million last year.

I want to briefly highlight the outstanding fundraising work of those who are behind Edinburgh’s capital sci fi con, whose volunteer cosplayers—led by Keith Armour—donate all the profits from their events to CHAS. Since 2015, they have collectively raised more than £250,000 for CHAS, which—as all members will agree—is a fantastic achievement. For every £1 of statutory funding that is given to help support the services that CHAS provides, the estimated economic return on that investment is £5.12, which is an indication of just how much value CHAS provides.

If there is one thing that I know that members across the chamber will agree on, it is that CHAS does not ever rest on its laurels but is continuously developing new ideas and initiatives to help young people and their families across Scotland. Its new home volunteer service sees volunteers visit ill children at home, and volunteers made 115 home visits in the first year of the service alone. I was really impressed to hear of the plans that CHAS has to expand that service.

CHAS also focuses on providing support to the siblings of children who have life-limiting conditions, and its support has been invaluable to dozens of brothers and sisters of seriously ill children across our country.

I close this evening’s debate by thanking, again, all those who work and volunteer for CHAS for everything that they do to support families across our country. Their contribution to individuals who are in need, and to the wider palliative care sector in our country, can never be overestimated. They really do help to keep the joy alive for a huge number of people and families who are going through the most difficult of times.

So, on behalf of the whole Scottish Parliament—thank you. I look forward to the rest of the debate.