Children’s Hospice Association Scotland

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

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Photo of Jackie Baillie Jackie Baillie Labour

I congratulate Miles Briggs on securing this debate. I am very proud that Robin house is in my constituency, and I am always happy when colleagues come to visit my beautiful patch.

The motto that CHAS has at the core of its mission—keeping the joy alive—perfectly sums up the incredible work that it carries out day in, day out. The exceptional levels of care and support that staff and volunteers at those hospices provide to the children and young people, and to family members, really is second to none.

I know from my visits to Robin house that families value the support that they receive at what can be an incredibly difficult time. Many of the children have quite severe life-limiting conditions and we can only begin to imagine the impact that that has on their families. However, as many members have said, it would be a mistake to think of Robin house as a sad place. It is quite the opposite; the minute that people walk through the door, they hear peals of laughter. It is bright and positively bursting with energy and joy. The staff and volunteers create that culture, which is wonderful to experience.

For 25 years now, CHAS has supported babies, children and young people with end-of-life care, emotional and physical therapy and education about the life-shortening illnesses that they have. It has not always been easy; there have been funding problems in the past, which are now more settled. CHAS is moving forward, though those problems are not quite behind them—it could always do with more money.

As Miles Briggs pointed out, there are currently 16,000 babies, children and young people in Scotland who are living with life-shortening conditions. The facilities that are on offer to those children at Robin house, and Rachel house in Kinross, make all the difference for them and their families.

Let me mention, as other members have done, the specialist swimming pool at Robin house. It is a wonderfully sauna-like environment—very warm and cosy—and it resounds to the splashes of children playing in a pool that is suited to their needs, with relaxing physiotherapy and stunning views across the countryside and the garden.

The garden at Robin house is fantastic. Mary Fee has covered many of the services that are available there, but I want to focus on the garden. The previous time that I visited, I planted trees and bushes with Patrick Harvie, who is not in the chamber this afternoon. His mum, Rose, volunteers at Robin house, so he was press-ganged into going along. We had typically Scottish weather—it was a little bit damp, but we are hardy souls. It really did not matter, because it is such a fabulous, colourful space in which children and, dare I say, adults can roam free and have adventures, whether in the pirate ship or getting lost in the jungle of the garden. When I think of the garden, I think of laughter, fun, serenity and safety. We just need to work on the sunshine.

I give a big shout out to Maggie, who is responsible for the garden, and to the army of volunteers who support her in her work. Indeed, our thanks go to all the volunteers, staff and trustees.

I remember when CHAS decided to establish a hospice at Robin house. We had a little local difficulty with planning, but we overcame that obstacle. All I can think of is the extent to which my constituents in Dumbarton, the Vale of Leven and Helensburgh went into fundraising overdrive. I have never been to so many bake sales and tombolas, donated so many bottles of Scottish Parliament whisky or sponsored so many people in my life, but it was all for a great cause.

The fundraising continues, and the chief executive of West Dunbartonshire Council, Joyce White, is about to trek across the Sahara for CHAS. I encourage members to sponsor her. Less kind people are hoping that she stays there for a while, but I would not dream of saying that.

Whether through the hospices in Balloch and Kinross or the home care service, CHAS’s valued support and care reaches every corner of the country, and for every child that CHAS cares for, it supports a further five family members. I cannot commend highly enough the work that CHAS does—it truly keeps the joy alive.