Cate is a passionate volunteer who visits Derian House each week to play and have fun with the hospice’s youngest children at playgroup.
She has always been a pioneer in fighting for equality for children with complex needs, and in 2016 Cate was awarded an MBE in the 2016 New Years Honours list for her ‘services to children in special educational needs and disabilities’.
For over 35 years, Cate taught early years at specialist education school, Newfield, in Blackburn, and before that, she taught in a unique open-air school on the outskirts of Blackburn, which is where she first heard about Derian House.
Cate has two children – Jack, 36, who has also gone on to work in education and Charlotte, 32, who is a Nurse Associate at Derian House.
“Derian House has grown a lot in 30 years, from a very small acorn to the all-singing, all-dancing place that it is today.” Said Cate.
“When I first heard about Derian, it must have been 30 or more years ago. I was a teacher at a school for children with complex physical conditions. It was open-air school that sat high on a hill overlooking Blackburn. The purpose of it was so that the children – many who had chest issues – were able to get more fresh air.
“The pediatricians who visited the school made us aware of a place called Derian House. Some of the children who attended the school were offered respite stays there. That was my first time hearing of the hospice.
“We always did a lot of fundraising at the schools I worked at because some of the children used the hospice. I knew several children who visited Derian House over the years. I remember visiting the hospice building – it has changed a lot since then.
“Over the years I think people have had a fear of using the hospice.” Said Cate.
“It makes it difficult to then encourage parents to use the services. Everyone always has this idea that it is where children go to die – but that’s not the case at all. Derian House is a very happy place.
“The Sunflower Rooms have always helped parents find a lot of solace. I remember when parents could first bring their children’s bedspread, their pictures, and their teddies, and it looked like their own bedroom. The Sunflower Rooms are still there, offering parents another option – rather than a funeral home. Parents can visit their child at Derian whenever they like, there are no visiting times or restrictions.
“Derian House has always been so supportive with child funerals. Staff would get so involved and would ask parents about their child – what music they liked, whether they liked balloons, or certain toys. They would put it all together in a package and I think that’s the most wonderful thing.
“I know Derian offers such a lot, a lot of love and a lot of care and a lot of activities. But at the end, I think that the most important thing is that the parents feel like that they get exactly what they want.”
Cate has always been a passionate advocate for equal opportunities children with special educational needs and disabilities.
“My mission for a long time was to make sure that children with complex needs had the same opportunities as other children.” Said Cate.
“I have always believed in equality for all. In the schools I have worked in, if there was something offered at mainstream schools, we would always make sure that children with complex needs would receive the same. They would have a school report, a parents evening, a record of achievement – whatever that looked like.
“Back then, education was education and didn’t intertwine with the medical side of things. At that time, the school nurse was there to provide medicines and to give any injections needed. Pediatricians had just started to link with schools to come in and visit the children. Before this, they would have had to be taken out of school.
“It is from these small beginning that parents, teachers, and medical professionals started working together. It was the beginning of interdisciplinary education and care.” Said Cate.
“Medical care has moved on tremendously since then. I remember that things started to change for the better. Babies were being saved that would never have been saved, and so their needs were completely different. We didn’t have the technology we have now. Until recently, children with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) did not often live beyond their teens. But now they are living into their 30s, some even their 40s and 50s.
“As long as wonderful places like Derian House remain, there will always be a need for hospices like it.” Said Cate.
“Our children are all precious, no matter what, and they should all be given equal opportunities. Whether that is getting a place in a good university, or whether that is as simple as being able to sit up, to swallow, to turn, or to be able to smile at their parent.”
Cate retired as a teacher in 2016 and began volunteering at Derian House shortly after.
“I really enjoy volunteering at playgroup at Derian. I just enjoy being with the children, talking to them and communicating. It’s really good for them to mix with other children. I like to see parents who are in similar situations chat and get to know each other.
“Derian House really is an incredible place.” Continued Cate.
“Over the past 30 years, it has grown from a small acorn into what it is today. If it develops as much as it has in the next 30 years, things will be incredibly different again because we’ll live in another age. What we think is technology and medicine now; it will be completely different by then. There have been big changes and I think there are going to be more big changes to come.”