finance

It costs £4.5m a year to help CHAS families at darkest times… and we need your help


Nestling in a quiet spot near Balloch is a remarkable, accessible garden that provides a haven of peace for children and their families facing the most difficult of times.

It is the garden at Robin House, one of two hospices run by CHAS – Children’s Hospices Across Scotland.

Robin House is an amazing welcoming space with eight bedrooms for children and eight family rooms and a full range of facilities from activity rooms, a den, lots of areas for relaxing and fun and a hydro pool. It also has areas for reflection, bereavement support and care of all kinds.

The hospice is a significant part of the work done by CHAS, where Rami Okasha is the incoming chief executive.

Okasha says the mission of CHAS is to provide opportunities for children to “feel the wind and sunshine on their faces, to sparkle, laugh, smile, moments of joy – those are words that children tell us are important”.

CHAS has been doing that for 30 years in its hospices, in hospital and in families’ homes.

The need for the charity’s services is clear. Okasha says: “We know there are 16,000 children in Scotland with a life-shortening condition. Many of those are stable right now, living well at home, some of them will live into adulthood, some children’s cancers can be cured entirely.

“But we know there’s a group of 5,000 children who are in regular hospital contact and within that there’s a group of about 2,000 who are deteriorating, really unstable and every year about 150 children die of a life-threatening condition.

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“While we work with all those children, we concentrate our work at that hard end, so we work more closely with children who are unstable, who are deteriorating and who are dying. We know that most children who die are under five, so the largest single group are babies.”

Okasha says that when this data was published, CHAS realised that it had to change what it was doing and work more with younger children. So now, in addition to the hospices, CHAS has staff that work in hospitals and neonatal units and in families.

Okasha became chief executive designate in October 2019, having worked at CHAS previously for nearly a year as director of transformation and innovation. He had previously worked at the Care Inspectorate for five years.

Okasha says there is a clear issue about health inequality with 27% of their client group coming from poorer backgrounds and 15% from people who are more affluent.

Children’s Hospices Across Scotland’s incoming CEO Rami Okasha and current chief Maria McGill

This means that in Robin House, CHAS’s team of social workers, who work alongside their nurses and doctors, are able to support families and this year the charity is looking to set up a money advice service for families to help them access benefits and charitable funds.

“If you have a child with a ­life-shortening condition and both parents give up work then it can be really tough – so for us being able to see the whole family in the round is important.”

Okasha says that the number of children CHAS has worked with has gone up by 25% over the last five years, a number that is steadily growing.

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The annual turnover of the charity is about £18 million, with the overall cost of delivering services to babies, children, young people and families in the year to the end of March 2019 having risen by £1.7 million to £14.5 million.

Robin House and its sister establishment Rachel House in Kinross, which is of a similar size and scope, each cost £4.5m a year to run.

Okasha’s responsibility as chief executive is to boost these numbers so CHAS can reach children in Scotland it currently does not.

He added: “We rely on the generosity of some fantastic people to allow us to provide these services for the children and their parents who are going through the worst times.”



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