Practical partnerships have been the key to providing top quality care and respite for people with limited mobility, says Mairi O’Keefe
Leuchie House has come a long way since its formation at short notice as an independent charity nearly three years ago to being shortlisted as SCVO Charity of the Year.
Since that seat-of-the-pants launch, it has become clear to us that none of our subsequent success would have been possible without the practical help and advice of our wide pool of supporters in all walks of Scottish life.
From the Scottish Government to East Lothian Council to local businesses, the importance of partnerships has been a constant. The latest high-profile organisation to back us is the five-star Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh, which started by donating furniture to us and has now named us its Charity of the Year.
As with so many of our partnerships, this came about after members of the hotel came to visit to see our work first-hand.
We provide a unique facility offering caring respite breaks for people and their families who are living with a long-term physical condition, such as multiple sclerosis, stroke, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s, motor neurone disease and cerebral palsy.
We have found that once through the door here in East Lothian, potential supporters are drawn in by the difference we make to lives by offering a combination of 24-hour expert nursing care in a non-clinical environment.
Once they see our guests laughing and socialising and enjoying activities and outings and understand that respite breaks are an essential resource for carers but also an opportunity to have fun, they are fully on board. We firmly believe that people with limited mobility deserve the same quality and attention to details as the rest of us would expect when we go on holiday. This can mean outings and trips in our accessible vehicles or just sitting with other guests in front of the log fire enjoying a drink and a chat.
With the integration of health and social care high on our agenda, we see our facility as a model for the future of caring respite breaks, especially as figures from the Scottish Government show around two million people, or 40 per cent of the population, have at least one long-term condition.
This means good care is vital, and respite breaks can mean the difference between a family member struggling on for longer, caring for a relative because they know that relative has a break to look forward to, and that carer perhaps becoming ill themselves through the demands of their new role.
Because Leuchie is based in a beautiful country house, there are particular challenges that would not be faced if it was a purpose-built facility. Which is why donations of large-scale furniture and fittings from various supporters have been so welcome.
Advice and practical help from Stobo Castle and the Waldorf Astoria Hotel (formerly the Caledonian) in Edinburgh have also inspired and encouraged us to aim high when it comes to quality breaks, with their understanding of customer service and attention to detail.
This generosity, particularly from the hospitality industry, has also extended to sharing some trade secrets with us as we strive to provide the best possible environment for our guests.
For this year’s major fundraising event at Leuchie – our Ascot Gold Cup Tea – Balmoral management staff will be volunteering to serve guests in the marquee on our lawn, adding an extra touch of professionalism to the proceedings.
A huge success last year, tickets for the Ascot event – with live streaming of the races onto big screens – are already in high demand, but there are still tables and tickets available.
This practical assistance is not restricted to the hospitality industry, though.
We had help with our social media strategy recently from Queen Margaret University students who chose Leuchie House as one of their clients for a Working in the Media module in their second year.
This proved another great example of partnership, as the students gained valuable experience for their coursework and we received a detailed presentation of ideas and tips for our communications strategy.
Whatever the results of the SCVO awards on 5 June, we are proud to have come so far with a little help from our friends.
• Mairi O’Keefe is CEO of Leuchie House