WORKSHOP: Case Study - Tea parties boost children's hospices

Francois Le Goff

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Background: Children's Hospice Week was launched in 1998 in Scotland to raise public and professional awareness of children with terminal illnesses and their families. The annual event, which took place from 20 to 27 September, is organised by the Association of Children's Hospices, an umbrella body that promotes and works on behalf of UK children's hospices. Since the opening of the first children's hospice in Oxford in 1982, a further 32 have opened across the UK.

These hospices provide care for children who have a wide range of terminal illnesses such as Batten's disease, muscular dystrophy, cancers and serious heart problems. Because they recognise that families of sick children often feel alone and in need of support, children's hospices offer them information and practical assistance in a welcoming home-from-home environment.

This year, the Association of Children's Hospices approached Standard Life and the insurance company agreed to work alongside the charity for seven months in preparation for Children's Hospice Week.

Aims: Children's Hospice Week is designed to raise awareness and support for hospices among health and education professionals, MPs, the media and volunteers.

The event seeks to raise money to ensure that the children's families have access to adequate healthcare services. Each hospice costs around £1m to run and the care services they provide are free. With less than 5 per cent of their income coming from statutory funding, children's hospices are almost entirely dependent on donations. Children's Hospice Week is a chance to renew acquaintances with established donors and recruit new ones.

How it worked: Supported by Standard Life and Rotary International, the association co-ordinated the organisation of hundreds of events and fundraising activities, including flower festivals, hospice open days and tea parties.

Butterfly tea parties are a key element of Children's Hospice Week. The idea is to invite friends, neighbours and work colleagues to a tea party and charge them for what they eat. The butterfly is used by the Association to signify the children's short and fragile lives.

Media coverage is also an important aspect of the campaign. The association featured in several articles and case studies across a range of media including national TV and radio. "The key to our campaign success was to secure media coverage, particularly on GMTV," said Aileen Hunter, campaigns co-ordinator at the association. An interview with the charity's chief executive was also featured on Lloyds Pharmacy in-store radio.

Results: The combination of local awareness raising, corporate partnerships and national media coverage seems to have worked very well. "Our 2003 Children's Hospice week has gone extremely well and has more than met expectations," said Barbara Gelb, chief executive of the Association of Children's Hospices. Money raised is expected to total hundreds of thousands of pounds.

On 25 September, GMTV broadcast a programme about Claire House, a children's hospital in Wirral. Nursery World, Take a Break and zero2nineteen magazines also ran articles about children's hospices, and more features are on the way. A Sunday newspaper is planning to publish a series of articles about the charity's work between October and Christmas.

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