Alpha This is a new service – your feedback will help us to improve it.

Overview

Children’s Hospices Across Scotland (CHAS) work to support children living with life-shortening conditions, as well as their families. They provide families with a full range of services, offering 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, mostly taking place within the hospices themselves.

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.

CHAS offers services such as kindness calls to assess a service user’s needs. They use these sessions to direct callers to further support, such as services to prevent loneliness, medical and pharmacy advice by phone and video, bereavement support, money and benefits advice, and family nursing.

This recipe examines how CHAS set up their Kindness Callers service as part of their wider Virtual Children’s Hospice service.

CHAS uses mobile phones to conduct conversations. We have included information on Microsoft teams as we believe it may still be valuable to charities looking to recreate the recipe on a budget.

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

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.

Cost

There is a free version of Microsoft Teams, but it does not include the ability to record meetings and there is a maximum meeting duration of 60 minutes.

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.

Considerations

Microsoft Teams provides free closed captioning

It integrates with Microsoft apps such as Outlook for calendar invites

Smartphones

Phone service workers needed devices to make and receive calls.

Cost

Smartphones are available at a wide range of prices that vary depending on the model or market. For this recipe, inexpensive models were sufficient.

Considerations

Smartphones may need to be accompanied with data pack SIMs that allow internet access when WiFi is limited.

NHS Clinical Database

A bespoke database containing service user records.

Considerations

Most charities would not have access to this technology but could replicate a similar effect using a CRM system.

Recipe steps

1. Plan

The first step is to organise your team. Assess what skills you have, what further skills you will need, and assign roles and responsibilities.

The nature of your organisation’s work will determine what these skills are. When CHAS originally implemented this recipe, all of their Kindness Callers were trained and experienced nurses. The callers needed to be able to identify families in crisis and intervene. Callers also received social services and referral training.

By establishing your objectives, and defining the support you want to offer service users, you will be able to decide what training your team will need.

Design what you want your service to look like. What can you reasonably expect to deliver with the resources you have available?

Decide on a format for sessions. What do your service users need? How best can you deliver this to them with the resources you have at your disposal?

2. Assess your service users’ needs and preferences

Gather information on your service users’ needs and preferences to use for the next steps. Information on their level of access to digital technology will be especially useful.

Find out what digital platforms your service users are already using. This will help to build a smoother transition.

Assess any risks or privacy and data management concerns.

3. Decide on a platform

Using information from the previous step, see if there is a platform that the majority of your service users are comfortable using. Assess whether the platform can meet all their needs.

For example, if you are working with service users who are hearing-impaired, you will want to consider options that support closed captioning or similar functionality.

4. Prepare for the session

Plan for sessions before holding them. Decide how you want the session to go, and what your aims and outcomes are.

Use information from your CRM database to inform yourself on the needs of the user. Find out what their previous interactions with your organisation have been. You can use all of this information to make the session more effective.

Make sure your team is both trained and supported. Making multiple calls to people in distress can be emotionally draining. Ensure that all team members are trained to handle these conversations and know who to go to if they are having difficulty.

5. Hold the session

Be sensitive to the needs of the service user during the session. Be prepared to answer questions and signpost further resources and support.

Practice active listening during the call. Be informed of your organisation’s internal processes and ensure you refer to internal and external services if needed.

Make arrangements for the next call. This means assessing whether one is needed and deciding whether referring to other services would be beneficial.

6. Gather feedback and optimise

Gather feedback from service users where appropriate. Use this alongside any other data to help inform changes to the service.

Use this information to assess and track the changing needs of families at different stages of the pandemic.

When working with service users with complex health needs, they may need to shield for the entire duration of the pandemic, so it is important to gather information on how their needs have changed and developed in order to help you tailor other services. Needs will change to reflect alterations to lockdown restrictions. Ensure that you can offer the best support and care by keeping your services flexible.

Guidance

Be prepared for requests and questions by researching further resources and information or support before the session.

Be sensitive to the needs of service users. People will have different requirements and some special allowances may need to be made.

Use feedback and data to improve the service as time goes on.

Carefully consider options for various platforms before making a final decision. Offer more than one option if possible.

Risks

Make sure that team members are supported. Delivering support to service users with sensitive needs can be distressing for staff. These concerns are more pressing when working remotely, away from the traditional support systems of the office.

Charities must provide a high-level of data security when working with vulnerable service users.

Staff members have to deal with emotionally challenging conversations on a frequent basis. They require clinical supervision and support.

Thanks

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

Licence

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 March 2nd, 2021. Last updated April 1st, 2021