Music therapy continues during lockdown

Children’s Hospice Week (June 22-28)

A local hospice charity says investment in technology is helping them to continue caring during the coronavirus pandemic.

Highlighted during Children’s Hospice Week (June 22-28), Havens Hospices says providing ‘socially-distant’ palliative and supportive care during the COVID-19 outbreak hasn’t been easy, but is creating ‘creative opportunities’ to still provide a level of respite for patients and families who rely on its care.

Little Havens dedicated music therapist, Ruth Ellam, who usually runs group and individual sessions within the hospice, has been running live sessions from her own home and recording themed videos for families who can use sensory props they may have around the house.

“Music therapy is not something that we had done online before lockdown, so it has been a steep learning curve,” said Ruth.

“There are lots of ways in which doing music therapy ‘virtually’ is more challenging – it feels strange to have everyone on ‘mute’ when we are doing our group sessions.

“It is incredibly joyous to look at the screen and see everyone joining in with the sing-a-longs and our ‘sensory and music story’ sessions.

“I feel so privileged to be able to do this work from home, and to still interact and engage with our children and families through music. It feels even more important at the present time.”

Ruth has had support and training in ‘Online Music Therapy’ from Jessie’s Fund, a charity that has pioneered the use of music therapy in children’s hospices across the UK.

One child benefiting from these sessions is Jimmy Burch, who will turn three years old in July. He has a brain injury following a febrile convulsion at six months old, and has been visiting Little Havens for a year, taking part in the social and music therapies available.

Mum Claire, 35 from Shoeburyness, says, “Although Jimmy is registered blind, we have noticed that he is starting to track objects and different stimulus. Luckily, he has really good hearing so adores noisy toys, music and instruments. That’s why the Sensory Storytime sessions at Little Havens are great for us, so we’re glad we’ve been able to continue this online.”

Jimmy isn’t technically classed as ‘vulnerable’ but it would be serious if he caught the virus because a fever makes his seizures more severe. So the family is shielding at home.

Claire added: “Jimmy loves these sessions, playing with the musical instruments and the repetition of songs. When he recognises a tune, he chuckles and laughs. He’s very responsive to this type of therapy.”

The majority of patients who use Little Havens and The J’s fall into the ‘vulnerable’ category and advised by the government to self-isolate so all face-to-face respite within the home and hospice has been postponed. The J’s has been offering ‘virtual individual respite’ via video call app Zoom where they chat, bake cakes and read stories to help meet the social needs of its young people.

Denise Morley, a healthcare assistant, said: “The patients seem to recognise my face and voice straightaway as I’m usually greeted with a lovely smile. It is wonderful to see how our patients have engaged in the stories which I have read to them. This has been shown by their facial expressions and by their eye contact whilst looking at the pictures which go with the stories.”

This free care can only continue thanks to donations made by kind supporters. With all public fundraising events postponed or cancelled, the charity is relying on gifts – whatever the amount – to keep caring.

Visit: or the charity’s social media channels @HavensHospices for ideas on how to support the charity.

For urgent care enquiries, please call 01702 220350.

Jimmy and Claire Burch

Mick Ferris

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