Children’s Hospice Association Scotland

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

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Photo of Annabelle Ewing Annabelle Ewing Scottish National Party

I, too, am very pleased to be called to speak in the debate and I congratulate Miles Briggs on securing it.

I pay tribute to CHAS’s staff and volunteers, who do a remarkable job and deserve our heartfelt thanks. It is worth noting again the quite remarkable statistic that it currently has 864 volunteers who have donated around 59,310 hours to the children and families across Scotland who are supported by it.

I also pay tribute to all those who fundraise for CHAS the length and breadth of the country and at all times of the year. For example, just recently, in my constituency of Cowdenbeath, there was a show in Crossgates where we saw Cowdenbeath band the Sunset Spirit playing and donating their time for CHAS, so well done to them. Indeed, it is difficult to think of a charitable organisation that inspires such determined and loyal fundraising and which is so universally supported by the generosity of the public.

CHAS has developed and evolved over the years and it now has hospices in Kinross and Balloch. At the same time, we have seen CHAS develop its CHAS at home outreach service, which has seen volunteers make, as has been mentioned, some 1,205 home visits in the past year. As has also been mentioned tonight, CHAS has established a presence in hospitals and its staff now work within hospital neonatal units in Edinburgh and Glasgow. CHAS has developed a new children’s consultant post in NHS Grampian and expanded its network of CHAS Diana children’s nurses, with new posts based in Aberdeen and Inverness. I welcome the groundbreaking partnership of paediatric, supportive and palliative care that has seen a team established at the Royal hospital for children in Glasgow, providing direct care and building links with other CHAS services.

Those developments very much fit with CHAS’s overarching ambition as set out in its current three-year strategic plan, which is to reach every family in Scotland that needs it. That is—rightly—an ambitious target, but it is one that I whole-heartedly support. As is shown by testament after testament, it is beyond doubt that the services that CHAS provides to families are pivotal to their being able to cope and having the opportunity to capture the irreplaceable moments with their child.

Respite care is vital for families, and the focus on siblings and the stresses and pain that they go through is a key part of the service that CHAS provides. That recognition of the difficulties that siblings face is important, as they may struggle within the family as well as at school, and they may feel quite alone. Having someone with whom they can talk things through and the opportunity to meet up with other young people who are in the same position is extremely important. In that regard, I am pleased to note that CHAS recently put out a call to arms to high schools, including in my constituency of Cowdenbeath, asking pupils in the senior years to consider becoming volunteers. That is a commendable initiative and I am happy to help to raise awareness of it this evening.

As a member who represents a Fife constituency, I was pleased to see that, in Fife, a care 24 team has been established in partnership with NHS Fife to support families with overnight care at the end of life of a child. The CHAS at home service is also operational in Fife, and a medical partnership is in operation with NHS Fife.

Many other initiatives are under way, but time constraints do not permit a detailed examination of them tonight. Suffice it to say that CHAS continues to evolve and innovate for the benefit of thousands of children and families across Scotland. The organisation has been going in its current form for only about 25 years, but its stature is such that it is difficult, if not impossible, to imagine life in Scotland without it.

The title of tonight’s debate is “CHAS, Keeping the Joy Alive”. The hard work of staff and volunteers ensures that CHAS does exactly that, and in the most unbearable of circumstances. We are all in its debt.