It is hard to believe what has been achieved in CHUMS over the past 13 years. It has been a real privilege to develop such a wonderful service that strives to make a difference to the lives of so many children who have been bereaved, or who may be suffering with other emotional wellbeing needs.
CHUMS was the inspiration of a local Macmillan nurse from Luton and a Social Worker at the local hospice, who brought together some like minded professionals from a variety of organisations who recognised that at that time there was no support for bereaved children. Out of these initial meetings a workshop programme was developed and CHUMS began to accept referrals.
At the time Barneys – a similar organisation in the north of the county – was also developing. In 1999 the benefits of working together to develop the project were recognised and a merger was implemented in 2000. Shortly afterwards we were successful in securing funding. The fact that CHUMS and Barneys were regional runners up for the NYE Bevan award a prestigious NHS award may have been instrumental in funding being made available.
I was thrilled to accept the post as manager and began in earnest considering ways of developing the service. In the first year CHUMS received 40 referrals and we had 16 volunteers. How much has changed and how much we have grown has been quite staggering.
Very quickly we were receiving 350 referrals per year and had gone from 2 staff to 7 and then 11.
We developed creative ways of supporting children through our programme of individual support and workshops but also ran residential weekends, family days, on-going monthly drop-in’s and a remembrance service. CHUMS also recognised the benefits of supporting parents/carers. This became a key area of support as we recognised the importance of aiding communication within the family.
In 2005 Friends of CHUMS was launched with the sole purpose of raising additional monies to enhance service delivery. They also began in earnest to raise money for a Consultant Psychologist to support children and young people with post traumatic stress following a death. The Trauma service was launched in 2008.
CHUMS were an NHS service for 12 years and we received a lot of support and encouragement from Luton PCT with whom we were based. However, we began to recognise that we could achieve more for the community by being outside of the NHS than remaining in it.
In September 2010 we applied through the Departments of Health’s Right to Request to leave the NHS and become a Social Enterprise. This was an arduous process of which we were thrilled to have been successful and we became an independent Social Enterprise on June 1st 2011.
At the same time as leaving the NHS we also became successful in tendering to provide a brand new Emotional Wellbeing Service on behalf of NHS Bedfordshire and this service was launched in October 2011. The past 18 months has also seen us develop a programme of support for parents on the Neonatal Palliative Care Pathway working in partnership with the L&D hospital and Keech Hospice Care offering support when there is a diagnosis in the womb of a life limiting condition through pregnancy, birth, death and beyond.
Becoming a Social Enterprise has been a real roller coaster of highs and lows as we have embraced the challenges of being an independent company. What has been achieved has been quite remarkable and is thanks to the enthusiasm, dedication and commitment of an amazing team.
CHUMS now receives 1500 referrals per year across all our services and has 40 staff and several trainees. We have achieved what we set out to do which was to reach out to many more children and young people.
We know that the future is one of many exciting possibilities and we will never give up on our quest to ensure that children and young people have hope for their future.
Dawn Hewitt, CEO