HAWTHORN Brae, a cottage in the heart of Perthshire, has opened in time for Carers’ Week, offering a spot of respite for people with life-limiting conditions and their carers. The opening has been made possible thanks to a new partnership between EMMS International – a Scottish international healthcare charity – and Voice of Carers Across Lothian (Vocal).
Hawthorn Brae’s legacy stretches back 150 years. Margaret Sanson, a lady from Edinburgh, passed away in the late 1800s, and gave her home, Hawthorn Brae, to EMMS International. The charity welcomed hundreds of people from Edinburgh throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, providing those struggling with poor health and poverty with a safe space in which to recover. By 1998, EMMS International had sold Hawthorn Brae to create the Hawthorn Brae Trust, which was then used to pay for holiday grants for needy Edinburgh families with illnesses.
However, the trust was not as effective as it could have been because “the small grants only paid for part of the holiday for 18 families a year,” explains Cathy Ratcliff, chief executive and director of international programmes at EMMS. As such, EMMS formed a partnership with Vocal, with approval from the Office of the Scottish Charities Regulator (OSCR), so that it could benefit more people each year.
Ratcliff said: “It’s an honour and a privilege to have been involved in ensuring the legacy and wishes of Margaret Sanson live on. The power of one person’s gift will continue to provide respite for Edinburgh residents with life-limiting conditions who are of limited financial means for years to come. Our partnership will improve the health and healthcare of people not only internationally, but here at home.”
In 2021, a survey carried out by Vocal found that “many carers and families are unable to take a break due to financial difficulties”. One carer said that they were “completely exhausted and running on empty”, and explained the severity of their situation: “I never feel rested, just depleted… I suffer with horrendous migraines and the doctors have told me to reduce the stress levels in my life, but how is this possible?”
Having a change of scene can be of real benefit to those who are cared for, and there is no better proof of that than with EMMS’ holiday schemes. One person with a life-limiting condition, who was able to take advantage of this new scheme, said: “I loved it; thank you for giving me this opportunity; it will be a positive memory I can remember; I loved being with my family, especially with the children being able to drop by.”
Vocal chief executive Sebastian Fischer said: “We know from the management of Edinburgh’s Carers Recovery Fund that many carers and their families are struggling to cope with the current cost of living crisis and need support to fund their basic daily needs.
“The barriers carers and those they care for face to taking a break have increased as a result of the current economic situation. Hawthorn Brae will help those in greatest need to access a free break from caring routines.”
EMMS International and Vocal hope that the legacy of Hawthorn Brae will live on through this new approach to short breaks provision. Every year, the house will provide more than 50 carers and the people they care for with a break from caring routines, having a positive impact on their physical and mental wellbeing.