Children’s Hospice Association Scotland

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

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Photo of Monica Lennon Monica Lennon Labour

I commend Miles Briggs for bringing the motion to the chamber for debate. I am delighted to be able to make a small contribution and to express my admiration and gratitude to everyone at CHAS for all that they do to keep the joy alive, for both children and young people with life-shortening conditions and their families.

CHAS works with people right across Scotland, which is absolutely fantastic. It also works closely with national health service colleagues and in our communities. In the summer, I had the great privilege of visiting Robin house to find out more about the work that its staff and volunteers do and about the experiences of children and young people there. In my area of Lanarkshire, CHAS has directly supported 33 children and young people and their families in the past year alone, so its impact is significant. That is not just because of what is provided at Robin house and Rachel house, but because of the CHAS at home service—which a lot of people do not know about—and the respite and end-of-life care that is provided in hospices, which is so important.

Other members will probably talk about their own visits to Robin house and Rachel house, but I would like to mention mine. When I was at Robin house I was bowled over by how homely, colourful and welcoming it was, and I enjoyed a lovely meal with staff and volunteers. The facilities ranged from a large hydrotherapy pool to beautiful gardens, which are accessible by everyone, and there were opportunities to play, have fun, relax or have quiet time if that should be needed. I was especially moved by the areas that are provided for reflection, the support that is offered for bereavement and the care that is given. It is simply a place that is filled with love.

People who give donations to CHAS might wonder where their money goes. The rainbow room is probably a very good example to illustrate that. Families can use the facilities in that room in the hospice from the day on which a child dies until the day of their funeral. CHAS needs more than £2 million a year to keep Robin house operational—that is over and above the statutory funding that comes from the Scottish Government—so it takes a lot of time, effort and money to provide those services. CHAS cannot do that without its more than 100 active volunteers who do amazing, fantastic work. The debate is therefore an opportunity for all of us in the chamber to say a big thank you to them. A reception will also be held tonight in the garden lobby, which I am sure will be well attended.

When I go home at night, I am now greeted by a beautiful and colourful plant pot with my name on it, which was a gift from the team at CHAS. It is lovely to see it there. Presiding Officer, I do not have a great track record with plants, but I do my best to look after the pot. When I come home from what are often busy, long and stressful days, it is lovely to see it, because it reminds me of the joy and the magic at CHAS. I therefore want to say my own big thank you to the team at CHAS.

I know that the organisation has a lot of supporters across the chamber, but there is always more that we can do. I remember that when I was preparing to lodge a motion during children’s hospice week, I read that quite a lot of people in Scotland do not really know what such hospices do. There is a lot more that we can do to raise awareness and to ensure that the excellent data that we have in Scotland, which is probably the best in the world—I am getting some nods from people in the public gallery—is used to maximum effect. We must ensure that, across the NHS and in the community, we know exactly what children and young people with life-shortening illnesses need and that the Parliament continues to be a champion for CHAS. [