Press Release – New Charity Formed to Develop Respite Care Centre for Grampian Families

A new charity has been established to drive a major campaign to fund and build a much-needed children’s respite care centre in Aberdeen.

Grampian Children’s Respite Care has been formed with the aim of delivering Charlie House, a residential facility for North-east children and young people with severe disabilities and complex health needs.

Plans for the centre are already being developed, with the charity hoping the facility will include 8-10 bedrooms with specialist beds and hoisting capability, parent and family accommodation, therapy rooms, sensory rooms and outside play areas.

There are currently no facilities in the North-east, with people from the region having either no appropriate breaks from caring or those with life-limited conditions having to travel to Rachel House in Kinross for hospice support.

The charity’s committee is made up of a group of professionals and parents who have personally experienced extreme difficulties in accessing appropriate planned respite care or short breaks for them and their children,

At the helm of the organisation is Tracy Johnstone, whose four-year-old son, Louis, was born prematurely at 24 weeks and has severe Cerebral Palsy and Chronic Lung Disease amongst other conditions.

Tracy and her family have struggled to find suitable respite and so, along with Sue Barnard – a retired Children With Disabilities co-ordinator – she started organising meetings with parents encountering similar difficulties, with a view to finding a solution to the shortage of provision for disabled children with complex needs.

The outcome of those meetings was the development of the charity, Grampian Children’s Respite Care and its vision to have a facility in Aberdeen operational by 2016.

Tracy explains: “After months of meeting, planning and gathering support, we’re thrilled to now be able to officially launch the Charlie House Appeal, which is dedicated to bringing a much-needed children’s respite care centre to Grampian.

“My family and I know only too well the extreme difficulties North-east people encounter in trying to secure appropriate respite support, with no such facilities currently available in the region.

“Time enjoyed at these centres, however, is essential for helping families with children with complex needs cope. For example, the short breaks allow carers to recharge their batteries, whilst the children can develop their own personalities through social and physical activities.

“We’re delighted to say that we’ve already had encouraging feedback from NHS Grampian, councillors and MSPs as well as the local business community. With their support we look forward to driving on this campaign and delivering a residential facility for local families.”

Medical Director NHS Grampian, Dr. Roelf Dijkhuizen, added: “The paediatric specialists in the Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital are very aware of the needs of children with severe disability and complex needs. They are very supportive of the establishment of Charlie House and would want to support this facility with medical advice.

“The establishment of Charlie House would provide a fantastic opportunity for local authorities, NHS, and communities to work together to support parents of children with severe disability and complex needs. These parents are providing very complex care 24/7, all weeks in the year.

“They are unable to take a break or a holiday year after year, at the expense of their family life which involves other children also. Charlie House would provide them with an occasional break from these responsibilities, allow them to recharge their batteries and strengthen their ability to fulfil their very demanding role.”

George Youngson CBE, Emeritus Professor, Paediatric Surgery, University of Aberdeen – a retired paediatric surgeon who is the Co-chair of the Scottish Managed Service for Children and Young People with Cancer – also commented: “Good respite is about a high-quality experience, high-quality care and the right kind of environment for children with a range of usually complex needs. It is not simply time off for carers and parents although that can, of course, in itself be a significant benefit.

“In the absence of a dedicated respite facility in the North-east many children are temporarily hosted in hospital where it is really difficult to meet the objectives stated above.

“The North-east of Scotland should offer that care in a custom built environment, independent of the need for a new or changing treatment. We are a caring society in this part of Scotland but we have a blind spot that needs a little light shone on it. Charlie House could achieve that.”


Issued by Citrus:Mix on behalf of Grampian Children’s Respite Care Charlie House Appeal. Contact Paul Beaton or Paul Smith on 01224 581700 or for further information.