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Children’s Hospices Across Scotland (CHAS) works to support children living with life-shortening conditions, and their whole families. They provide families with a full range of services, offering medical and nursing support, therapeutic play and care, financial, bereavement, emotional, and spiritual support, depending on the family’s unique needs.

To support their service users in lockdown, CHAS has launched the UK’s first virtual children’s hospice in order to continue working with families and children facing terminal illness.

Prior to COVID-19, each family would be supported by a CHAS key worker. Services were delivered in person, taking place within the hospices, family homes and hospitals.

Due to social distancing restrictions, however, CHAS have set up new services to help families who are self-isolating or are otherwise unable to visit a hospice.

With this recipe, CHAS created a virtual and remote hospice so that families could access all the same support that they normally would get in person in an online format.

Recipe status

This recipe has been in use since March 2020.

We are not sharing this recipe as the perfect solution to a problem, but we believe Children’s Hospices Across Scotland’s learnings could be very useful to other organisations.

Users and needs served

  • As a staff member or volunteer, I need to offer advice and deliver support remotely
  • As a service user, I need to access support and advice remotely

Software and tools used


Zoom is a popular communication and videoconferencing tool used for calls, videos, and chat.


Zoom offers a range of subscriptions.

The free ‘Basic’ plan allows unlimited one-to-one meetings but has a 40-minute time limit on group sessions.

There are also various options for paid plans:

● Pro (£11.99/month/host) ● Business (£15.99/month/host) ● Enterprise (£15.99/month/host).

These plans contain increased options for participation and no time restrictions.

Zoom is also available at discounted charity rates through the Charity Digital Exchange programme.

More price options can be found here.


One of the key benefits of Zoom is that it is a commonly-used and well-known platform.

You need to make sure safeguarding procedures are in place and that meetings are moderated properly and have the appropriate security measures. One of the key benefits of Zoom is that it is a commonly-used and well-known platform.

You need to make sure safeguarding procedures are in place and that meetings are moderated properly and have the appropriate security measures.

Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams is a collaboration app within the Microsoft Office 365 suite that includes instant messaging, videoconferencing, and the ability to share content from other Office 365 apps.


Microsoft Teams is available through a number of different tiered subscriptions to Microsoft 365, which vary in price.

Microsoft 365 Basic is available for free but lacks some of the functionality required to put more complex recipes into operation.

The most basic paid plan, Microsoft 365 Business Basic, starts at £3.80 per user per month. This includes increased file storage, recordings and unlimited meeting times.

Microsoft 365 subscriptions are available at discounted charity rates through the Charity Digital Exchange programme.

You can view more info on Microsoft 365 pricing here.


Microsoft Teams provides free closed captioning.

Teams integrates with other Microsoft apps, such as Outlook for calendar invites, which can lead to a more streamlined way of working.


WhatsApp is a popular digital messaging platform for smartphones that provides text, voice, and video calls, as well as simple file-sharing capabilities.


WhatsApp is free to use.


There were concerns from CHAS’s information governance team about data-sharing. This is because when using a WhatsApp group chat, your number is open to everyone. This makes people easily available, which can lead to safeguarding issues.


Facebook is a popular social media platform.


Facebook is free to use. It also offers options for paid advertising.


For this recipe, CHAS used a closed Facebook page for family peer-support.

CHAS tested a few platforms before finding the right one. Many families were already comfortable using Facebook.

CHAS had to take control over data protection, information governance and security, and decided Facebook was the best platform available, albeit one that still raised concerns.

CHAS ensures there are moderators on the page who have been trained in support and referral procedures. There are also social workers in the group to identify and intervene in crisis – this will be done offline, through a crisis call within four hours.

Near Me

Near Me is a secure video conferencing platform used by NHS Scotland.


The platform is not available to the general public


This service offers far more secure encryption than commercially available video conferencing platforms. It is used for sensitive one-to-one conversations such as child protection meetings, bereavement support and suicide prevention.

Recipe steps

1. Assess the needs of your service users

Assess what is good about your service and what your service users need.

Find out what they value most and ascertain how you can deliver this.

2. Plan

Start with the needs of the service user and plan from there.

Find out how you can best deliver these services.

3. Choose a platform

Decide on the right platform for both your service users’ and your own needs (i.e. safeguarding of service users and staff members/volunteers).

4. Plan sessions and activities

Decide what you want sessions to look like, how they can be most effectively delivered and where appropriate, how you can make them as fun as possible.

5. Deliver sessions

This includes sending out physical components, such as materials for activities or treats: make sure everyone has access to the same things, as poverty can be a major component to a child living with a life-shortening condition.

6. Gather feedback

Build an evaluation plan and a testing plan for every part of the service and every different workstream being delivered.

In many ways, digital lends itself to feedback. People are used to evaluating services as they would on social media or when purchasing something via e-commerce.

You may be able to get younger service users to give feedback online using emojis.

7. Optimise

Break up sessions if they are too long.

Organise people into groups defined by factors such as age, family, condition or location.

8. Review

If you find that your project is not working then you can stop and try something else based on what you’ve learnt.


Some service users need tech support or guidance. You should have guidance on how to use every platform.

Carry out a risk assessment on every platform, as well as a safeguarding assessment on all services and on every platform.

Digital exclusion can be a big issue. The Scottish government launched the Connecting Scotland fund to offer devices, Wi-Fi and guidance on how to use the internet.

Being inclusive is important – make sure everyone is comfortable using tech.

Make a plan for volunteers and hosting. Not everyone can have a paid license and hosting privilege. Timetable and risk assessment are really difficult to run digitally.

Be creative and expressive. Digital provides many new opportunities and keeping things fresh can combat fatigue.


Consider risks to funding. There are no geographic barriers to digital, but funding might be specific to a certain location. What does this mean for the delivery of virtual services across the country?

Identify people who are slipping into crisis. Stage an intervention, and use digital tools to identify a problem and potential avenues of support.

Big groups of people coming together can lead to safeguarding risks. Consider how you will moderate these meetings and forums.

Carry out risk assessments of everything. Don’t just ask what people want, but also ask whether it is safe for your organisation to deliver it.

Most professionals were forced into digital by COVID-19. This has led to a skills gap, where many people are new to digital ways of working and may lack the necessary skills. Consider how you will train and support staff members and volunteers.


Many thanks to Children’s Hospices Across Scotland for contributing this recipe.


This recipe is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.

That means you are free to copy, redistribute, and build on the text of this recipe, but only for non-commercial purposes (if you want to use it for commercial purposes, get in touch with us at [email protected]). You must give credit to both Catalyst and Children’s Hospices Across Scotland and link back to this page. If you build on this recipe then you must share your version under this same licence.

Recipe published on April 26th, 2021. Last updated August 6th, 2021