I talk with Laura Robertson from Children’s Hospice South West about how we offer end of life care to our young children and their families.
Laura joined Children’s Hospice South West back in June 2017 after many years of fundraising for both small and large charities. A career that that she did not anticipate when graduating from University of Plymouth with a Theatre degree over 10 years ago, but one that is filled with highs, lows, daily challenges and so much to be thankful for. “What I love so much about my job is getting to meet so many people from different walks of life and knowing that the work that I am doing is making a real difference to local people.
Social isolation is not new to families caring for children with life-limiting conditions. Many are used to long hospital stays far from home, long periods of illness preventing normal daily activities, being unable to attend school due to health needs, and sacrificing social interactions due to care needs.
But the Covid lockdown has brought many new and often terrifying challenges to these families, many of whom have seen care packages fall away and their wider support networks disappear in the wake of the global pandemic.
Children’s Hospice South West (CHSW), which looks after 500 families around the South West, has had to adapt its care model to continue providing the lifeline support the charity has offered since 1995.
Because of the significant risks and the vulnerability of children, routine respite stays at the three hospices – Charlton Farm in North Somerset, Little Bridge House in Devon, and Little Harbour in Cornwall – have been cancelled. But the hospices remain open for emergency and end-of-life care and the charity has developed a ‘hospice, home and virtual’ model to be able to continue caring for families wherever they are and whenever they need it most.
“We try to make the most of every single moment and make memories that we will treasure always”
We have supported children in their homes providing night shifts when care packages in the community have fallen apart, enabling families to step in and care for their children in the morning. We have also been providing care for community children’s nurses, cover over weekends and evenings. Our care teams have been visiting families on doorsteps giving food parcels and lots of virtual support, including a virtual sibling and bereavement groups.
CHSW needs around £11m a year to run its three children’s hospices and around 85 per cent is raised through voluntary donations.
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Christina Gabbitas http://www.christinagabbitas.com is an award-winning children’s author who has encouraged over 25,000 children nationally with an annual poetry initiative, giving her a Dame Beryl Bainbridge award in 2015 for her work and Sue Ryder Education Award in 2016. Founder and Trustee of Children’s Literature Festivals http://www.childrensliteraturefestivals.com whose mission is to give children from all backgrounds, cultures and abilities an equal opportunity of having access to books to realise the power of reading not just educationally but socially and emotionally too.Christina received a Mayoral Award for Services to Children’s Literature and Child Protection, and was made an Honorary Member of the NSPCC Council for the work that she has undertaken in safeguarding children. Christina’s book Share Some Secrets was awarded a national book prize in 2019, and the publication is now encouraging children to speak out and being recognised globally. The animation resource and publication is being utilised in some PCC’s child exploitation toolkits.
A recent work was with the Police & Crime Commissioners Office in Humberside where she produced a story to help educate children on the dangers of being groomed into County Lines and being involved with knife crime. http://www.nomoreknifecrime.com The partnership also included a writing initiative with children aged 10+
Her latest book–out on the 4th March ( World Book Day ) is http://www.monahlot.com focusing on a seven year old girl who complains a lot until she is understood better and responds to kindness.
We also talk about the poetry competition for children she organised to help them express their feelings about Lockdown. Called Lockdown Lives . I was very pleased to be one of the judges in what turned out to be an extremely successful project.
Testimonial from Ali Jeremy Director of Communications at NSPCC: “Christina deserves the highest level of recognition from the NSPCC for her dedication and unstinting enthusiasm. She is a wonderful lady who is passionate about safeguarding whilst conveying a love of reading which can open up so many new worlds for our children”
Robert Ruston – Victims and Vulnerable People Lead for PCC Lancashire
Share Some Secrets book and online animation is an excellent addition to our NEST Lancashire Toolkit. Providing suitable resources that younger children can use on their own as well as with teachers, carers and parents is an area of resources that we need to grow and develop and Christina’s resource is a very useful start.”
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Peter Wanless has been the Chief Executive of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children since June 2013. The charity’s longstanding purpose is to prevent cruelty to children, something it seeks to achieve through a mixture of service delivery, research, influencing, advocacy and campaigning. Among the NSPCC’s http://nspcc.org.uk direct services are Childline, 0800 1111 a confidential helpline for any young person with nowhere else to turn, the NSPCC Helpline email@example.com for any adult with a worry or concern about a child, the Child protection in Sport Unit and a network of service centres across the UK focused particularly on abuse and neglect in the early years and child sexual abuse. The NSPCC has been particularly prominent of late in building the child protection case for online regulation of social media services.Peter was previously Chief Executive of what was then the Big Lottery Fund and a Director at the Department for Education between 1998 and 2008. He is on the Boards of Somerset County Cricket Club and the Government’s National Leadership Centre. He received a knighthood in the 2021 New Year’s Honours List for services to children and charity.
We talk of the priorities driving the NSPCC in these challenging times. Supporting young people first, keeping staff and volunteers safe and well and looking to maintain the donation base to continue vital work.
Peter outlines the strategic position of the charity and the constant focus on adapting to threats and challenges to young people. Their work in schools, their combatting of online risks and the increasing workload on their well established Childline service. Training and research are cornerstones of the charity and his job in overseeing all aspects include partnerships with all colleague services, both statutory and voluntary.
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