People who know me know that I really like trees, more than is normal. So I’ve spent some of my Christmas break wandering and pondering in woodland, getting away from all responsibilities and accountability. Now I’m back at work though at this time of year I’m asked as a CEO what I think is ahead for children’s palliative care and for Demelza. So I shall answer that question through the medium of trees.

Demelza is about to enter another period of positive change. These are the times that I find the most exciting. We have a rough idea of what we need to do, which is to provide more support to families with a child with a terminal condition to live a normal family life and at bereavement. But although we have ideas we don’t know quite what that new support will be yet. We will embark on a big listening exercise this year, making sure we do actually know what families’ lives are actually like and where we can have the most impact. 

I suspect the way forward will have a lot to do with volunteering and peer support, but whatever it is will form our next strategy once the current strategy runs its course at the end of the year. The current strategy has been to work with more people and successfully launch community-based services. This will continue of course.

At the same time there are a lot of threats around: a national shortage of qualified staff, pressure on charitable income and scrabbling around in the dirt for NHS funding to name just a few. It’s a hard time to be working for a charity. But as I always try to say, the hard times are what charities are for, to do hard things against the odds, just like the children who use Demelza do. It may mean that it takes some time to put new services into place, as we’ll have to find the money and staff from somewhere, but just as we have done to date, once our new service-saplings are in the ground they will take root and be here to stay.

And in the meantime there is more of the same: care to the whole family at end of life of a child, symptom control and step down care, short breaks and respite, family support, practical support, therapy services and family events. ‘More of the same’ sounds boring. But it isn’t, it’s the most exciting thing I’ve ever done in my career, enhancing, soothing and transforming lives in endless new ways.

What’s that got to do with woods? Well not much really, but stretching the metaphor we are strong and permanent and endlessly, carefully and wonderfully transforming and growing, always in the right directions, coping with serious threats from the outside world but always somehow persevering, being necessary and doing good.

Happy new year

Ryan xx