New holiday house opens for unpaid carers and those they care for

A holiday house has today opened, to provide short breaks for unpaid carers and the person(s) they care for, thanks to a partnership by two Edinburgh-based charities, VOCAL – Voice of Carers Across Lothian and EMMS International, Scotland’s international healthcare charity, and supported by funding from Swinton Paterson Trust.

Hawthorn Brae house, set in the beautiful surroundings of Blair Atholl, has been made possible by the transfer of ownership of the legacy fund by EMMS International to VOCAL. The legacy gift was originally made by Edinburgh resident, Margaret Sanson in the late 1800’s when she gifted her Edinburgh home, Hawthorn Brae, to EMMS International. EMMS International requested the entrustment of the legacy to VOCAL, so that the legacy could benefit more people each year.

In a reorganisation of the legacy, granted by the Scottish Charities Regulator (OSCR), EMMS International transferred ownership of the fund to VOCAL, enabling the charity to purchase this new cottage for people with life-limiting conditions and their unpaid carers, who could not otherwise afford a break.

Taking a break from caring routines can have a hugely positive impact on emotional and physical health, sense of isolation and social contact. But VOCAL’s 2021 Carer Survey found that many carers and families are unable to take a break due to financial difficulties, stress surrounding planning and a lack of alternative caring arrangements. One carer commented:

“Completely exhausted and running on empty. 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?”

People who are cared for benefit from a change of scene, as evidenced in the holiday scheme which EMMS International used to operate on a smaller scale with this legacy. One person with a life-limiting condition commented:

“I loved it; thank you for giving me this opportunity; it will be a positive memory I can remember; I love 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.”

Hawthorn Brae is part of a new, innovative approach to short breaks provision. Using which a social enterprise model, VOCAL seeks to address the growing demand for regular short breaks from caring and

the lack of suitable accommodation. Some weeks are set aside paid bookings to fund the operations of the holiday house.

EMMS International, CEO and Director of International Programmes, Cathy 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.”

Every year, Hawthorn Brae will benefit over 50 carers and the people they care for, providing a break from caring routines and making a difference to their physical and mental health.

This project wouldn’t have been possible without the generous support of EMMS International and Swinton Paterson Trust.