The coronavirus lockdown has presented challenges for all families with young children – but for families with a child who needs access to specialist care, those challenges can be particularly tough.
Since the start of the lockdown in March, Aberdeen children’s charity Charlie House has seen an 84% increase in the requirement for their services – and support was provided for families on more than 170 occasions in May alone.
To mark Children’s Hospice Week, which begins today, the charity is drawing attention to the services and support they provide to families across the north-east with a child or children who require specialist care.
Current restrictions have meant many such families have not been able to access the care their child needs.
In some cases, people living with children who have complex disabilities have not been able to leave the house at all, due to the risk of complications if Covid-19 is brought through the door.
This has forced many Charlie House-supported families to meet 100% of their child’s care requirements themselves, with little or no opportunity for respite.
Unable to bring carers into the home to assist with their child’s needs, and unable to access the face-to-face, hands-on care that would support them under normal circumstances, they have faced the toughest 12 weeks of their lives while staying under complete lockdown.
Charlie House has also faced the challenge of providing as much support as possible without being able to physically visit the children and their families at home.
The charity has spent the lockdown period creating and delivering isolation packs, providing information and peer support through their private Facebook page, and sending out PPE where it’s needed.
They have also enlisted the help of their team of specialists.
Activities co-ordinator Beth Hopkins is providing online activity sessions, while families are also able to access Charlie House’s community nurse Fiona Fairley and receive therapeutic and emotional support from the Children & Family Support Manager Leigh Ryrie.
Leigh said: “We have changed our entire support mechanism moving from our normal face-to-face contact to virtual support via phone calls, email, video and text support to support our families as best we can.
“We are also providing virtual sibling clubs, virtual show and tells, pre-recorded informative videos and the provision of on-line activities and resources.
“Our community nurse is continuing to support families on the ward at Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital, liaising with multi-disciplinary teams on behalf of the families and offering support via telephone and video calls.
“We have also had generous donations from local companies to benefit our families in the form of PPE, medical gloves, hand sanitiser and even a donation of 20 ‘brownie-making’ packs from award-winning cake maker O’Caykx.
“Anything new that we can think of to provide respite and further support, we are doing it.”
Charlie House is also busy preparing to bring back some favourite events as soon as it is safe to do so again.
That includes regular activity clubs for parents, carers, siblings and the rest of the family, as well as the biannual trips to Kielder Forest Park in Northumberland.
Leigh added: “We know that the support requirement will remain high, but we also desperately need to highlight the requirement for funding to enable us to do so.
“The cancellation of all of our major fundraising events this year puts enormous financial pressure on the charity, so we have to hope that the kind-hearted people of the north-east continue to donate to us as they have done previously.”
To raise awareness of Charlie House and Children’s Hospice Week, Aberdeen pantomime stars Alan McHugh and Jordan Young will be performing their ‘greatest hits’ from past shows in a series of videos to be posted on the charity’s social media.
The first of the videos will be released at 7.30pm this evening, with a new one appearing at the same time each night until Friday.
To donate £5 to Charlie House’s Support our Services campaign, text CHARLIESOS to 70085.
If you would like to find out more about the family support offered by the charity, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01224 313333 for further information.