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Charity marks one year since launching vital online service

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CHAS launched its Virtual Hospice to continue to support charities during lockdown

A charity is marking a year since it launched a vital online service.

A Virtual Hospice service designed by Children’s Hospices Across Scotland (CHAS) in response to the coronavirus pandemic is being celebrated by families and staff across the country on the occasion of its first anniversary.

With its two hospices offering emergency care in order to safeguard families during the first national lockdown in March 2020, CHAS had to dramatically transform the way in which it provides its increasingly important services. As well as significantly expanding home care, the Virtual Hospice – the first of its kind in the world – now routinely supports children and families across Scotland. Nurses, doctors, and family support specialists use technology to support families in their own homes.

The Virtual Hospice offers extensive care to hundreds of families; whether they require clinical guidance, financial advice or bereavement support. CHAS Family Support Teams also offer an expanding range of interactive activities, such as art clubs, storytelling, music therapy, play therapy, youth groups and face to face care calls to children and parents. Even as lockdown measures begin to ease, this essential service continues to reach hundreds of families at any one time and has become an integrated and essential part of CHAS’s services.

Rami Okasha, chief executive of CHAS, said: “The CHAS virtual hospice service was set up in record speed just over a year ago to give the children and families that we care for a lifeline in what has been an incredibly difficult time. Many of the families we support were, and some still are, self-isolating with their usual support systems cut off. We set out to be there for those families and remind them that they are never alone.

“The first of its kind in the world, our virtual hospice was set up just after the first national lockdown and throughout the year, the service has continued to evolve so we can be responsive to the specific and changing needs of families. Our virtual hospice is here to stay and will remain a vital part of how we provide care in the months ahead.  If children can’t come to the hospice right now, we will continue to take the hospice to them.

“Keeping the joy alive is at the very heart of everything we do at CHAS and it’s the unwavering dedication of our supporters that has kept our services running; allowing us to introduce and integrate our virtual hospice service and be there for Scotland’s most vulnerable children and their families. For this, we’re incredibly grateful”

One family supported by the Virtual Hospice is the Sneddons, from Wilsontown, South Lanarkshire. Six-year-old Sia has a rare neurological condition called Aicardi syndrome which causes seizures and developmental delays.

Mother Sally said: “Sia loves virtual storytelling with Elaine, a volunteer from CHAS. At first we weren’t sure she would be able to use Zoom as Sia has a visual impairment but she made it very clear from the start that she could absolutely do it! She’s a very determined wee girl!”

Sia also takes part in virtual music therapy with the charity Nordoff Robbins and loves a wide range of music from country to metal and everything else in between.

Sally continued: “Robin House introduced Sia to music therapy from a very young age. From her very first session, Sia engaged in a way we’d never seen before. It was like watching our child come to life, completely transforming and brought tears to our eyes.”

What the family appreciate most about CHAS is the proactive attitude that staff and volunteers have taken in the face of staggering adversity.

Sally said: “CHAS has been amazing this year. The team’s attitude is very much ‘how can we do that’ rather than ‘we can’t do that.’  They’ve not let a global pandemic stand in their way!”

In Scotland, more than 16,700 children and young people live with life-shortening conditions and CHAS is determined to reach every family who needs its services. CHAS works across Scotland to provide its hospice services to babies, children and young people with life-shortening conditions nationwide. CHAS also offers palliative, respite and end-of-life care from Rachel House in Kinross and Robin House in Balloch.

The CHAS at Home service supports families with the services of a hospice yet in their own homes across the whole of Scotland, proving vitally important throughout the last year. CHAS Diana Children’s Nurses work in hospitals across the country to support families and clinical teams.



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