Sam Cameron talks at Beckton hospice about caring for disabled son

Prime Minister’s wife Samantha Cameron talked about caring for her late son Ivan during a visit to a children’s hospice in Beckton yesterday.

She met parents who have children with life limiting conditions receiving care at Richard House hospice at the start of Carers Week.

Mrs Cameron was given a tour of facilities, which include a specialist residential unit for children needing respite and palliative care. She spoke to some of the local families who get essential support from the hospice. Among them was Gowar Shaikh whose son Murad, 13, has been coming to the hospice for several years.

JLS fan Murad has a severe condition. His mum said: “Samantha asked Murad about hospital visits she took a real interest and totally understood how difficult it is going to so many appointments. As a mother of three she could relate to our needs and she saw first-hand how much Richard House Children’s Hospice really helps the whole family with wrap around care.”

Mrs Cameron spoke about six-year-old Ivan who was born seriously disabled and received 24-hour care for cerebral palsy and epilepsy before he died in 2009.

Mrs Cameron invited Murad to visit Downing Street and said her daughter Nancy, eight, was a JLS fan too.

Alison Smith has been bringing her 10 year old daughter Cara to Richard House for about eight years. She set up the mum’s group which meets regularly.

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She said: “It’s perfect being able to use the hospice for the parents too. Being a parent of a child with long-term health conditions can be incredibly isolating and hard-going. We meet regularly, use art therapy and I think really keep each other sane. Samantha was genuinely interested in hearing how Cara uses Richard House too. Cara told her all about the film club facilities – they even have their own Oscars ceremony.”

Richard House Children’s Hospice is one of the over 1,800 local partners involved in Carers Week 2012 which is recognising the need for support for 6.4 million unpaid carers across the UK. The theme for this year is In Sickness and in Health with a focus on improving the health of carers. Richard House Hospice is hosting a number of events for carers including healthy eating workshops and pampering sessions throughout the week.

Peter Ellis, Chief Executive of Richard House Hospice, added: “Unpaid carers are absolutely essential – they deserve all the support they can get.

“At Richard House, we run several sessions to help and support carers from pamper days to emotional support. But that is just the start. We are also piloting a new scheme called compassionate communities with St Joseph’s adult hospice, in Hackney. The scheme looks to engage the wider community in caring and supporting existing carers.”

Helen Clarke, Carers Week Manager, said “We’re delighted Samantha Cameron has helped launch Carers Week 2012 with this visit. By meeting parent carers she heard first hand of the struggles carers go through and how support can make a real difference.”

Carers Week is delivered by a partnership of Age UK, Carers Trust, Carers UK, Independent Age, Macmillan Cancer Support, Marie Curie Cancer Care, MS Society and Parkinson’s UK. It is sponsored by Sainsbury’s and Skills for Care/Skills for Health.