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Gareth’s blog: Blazing a trail

In his latest blog, our CEO shares some of the many ways we continue to blaze a trail for children and families.

Remembering our roots

One of the biggest reasons for our success is the fact that the way we support children and families has never stood still. 

Our roots lie in the actions of one mum, Linda, who knew there was a need for better support for children and families here in West Yorkshire based on her own experience. Thanks to her decisive action the charity was born and a few years later, Russell House was built – its design based on what children and families told us they needed. 

I think that Linda would be proud to see that today, we continue to build on the foundations she laid back in 1998 – constantly evolving our services to better meet the growing needs of our local population.

This has led to a number of ‘firsts’. Like being the first hospice in Europe to employ our own midwife and the first children’s hospice to offer dedicated support to families whose child dies suddenly and unexpectedly. And we continue to blaze a trail today.

How are we currently blazing a trail? 

Recently, we’ve collaborated with Barnardos to deliver a project called ‘No Barriers Here’ – a new approach that encourages older children (especially those approaching their 18th birthday) to take an active role and have a voice in their future care planning – this is a new and innovative way of supporting children to make their own decisions and encourage independence as they transition into adult services. 

Last year, we took part in a pilot, working with other partners, to support maternal mental health across West Yorkshire. It has been well documented in the media that support for families experiencing the loss of their baby is inconsistent and we’re working locally to change that. This pilot introduces new methods of support including EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation Therapy) and support for dads. The uptake for this support has been incredible and we’re delighted that the pilot has been extended into this year. 

We continue to develop our service to support families in the immediate aftermath after the sudden death of their child. Last year, we launched a new partnership with West Yorkshire Police which is designed to improve access to our support and enable closer working between services. We hope that this will make a big difference to families who face this tragic situation across West Yorkshire each year. 

And we continue to do as much as possible to engage with the diverse community which we serve. In 2023, we held our first Iftar event at Russell House, which we repeated in March this year and it was great to see other hospices and charities following our lead and hosting their own events locally too. We’re currently exploring how we can take the blueprint of the extensive work that we have done to better engage with and improve access for South Asian families to engage more widely with the many other communities in our locality.  

Sharing our learning and never standing still 

Of course, our pioneering approach doesn’t just benefit children and families here in West Yorkshire. We encourage our teams to speak at conferences and collaborate with other organisations within the sector to share best practice and we also offer training to other colleagues in the health and social care space and beyond. 

We’ve made a promise – for as long as we’re here, no family in West Yorkshire will have to face the loss of their child alone. We know that to deliver this promise to families today, tomorrow and in the future, we won’t be able to stand still. As the needs of families constantly change and the complexity of needs increase, our services will continue to evolve and pivot to respond to those needs. 

Watch this space as we write the next chapter!