Children’s Hospice Association Scotland

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

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Photo of Mary Fee Mary Fee Labour

I, too, thank

Miles Briggs for securing this debate.

In April 2018, I was fortunate enough to receive an invitation to visit Robin house in Balloch. I was aware of the work of CHAS and—like most people, probably—I was apprehensive about going to a children’s hospice. The word “hospice” can evoke sad and negative thoughts. However, I could not have been more wrong. The first impression that strikes a visitor when they arrive at Robin house is the setting. It is calm, quiet and surrounded by peaceful countryside. Inside the house, as it is known, is a warm, loving, colourful and positive environment. Families support their loved ones 24/7. To have that respite support, whether it is planned or emergency, is essential for families with children who have life-limiting conditions to function.

The hospice provides space for a family to be just that—a family. CHAS offers a sense of normality. Such care and detail goes into the preparation for the family’s stay. From having the child’s favourite character duvet cover to the toy they have favoured in previous visits, with family photographs adorning the bedroom walls, there is a real sense of home.

Parent carers and siblings are not forgotten. There are quiet family rooms of hotel standard looking out into the countryside. Every detail is thought through, and with the knowledge that there are medical professionals with them, family members can have a proper night’s sleep. They can relax, rest and mentally switch off.

Making memories is a high priority for the families of children who have life-limiting conditions and essential for their healing when that inevitable time comes. Specially adapted therapy rooms are included in Robin house. There is a state-of-the-art music room, the biggest hydrotherapy pool I have ever seen, a messy play room, and the all-important sensory room. These are experiences that cannot be offered at home.

Such state-of-the-art facilities lead to significant costs. CHAS relies heavily on public support to maintain its work. Essential funds must be raised continuously to allow both its houses to function.

I also learned the importance of volunteering for both CHAS houses. The volunteer gardeners, the chefs, the play therapists, and the holistic counsellors all willingly give their personal time to make each family’s stay at the houses a special experience.

Reflecting on my afternoon at Robin house, I am reminded that making the most of short and precious lives is paramount, and it is that, above all, that is important to each and every family and, equally, to the staff members and volunteers of CHAS. Families are safe in the knowledge that they will be supported through what will be the darkest moments of their lives.

I finish by quoting a parent. Lorna Cobbett, mum to Essie Victoria, said:

“Hospices are not hospitals and for some families they are a second home. They are there to support families and to make memories; to be a shoulder to cry on as you navigate an impossible path. We need to remove the fear and show how much they are places that are full of life.”