New Respite Home Opens in Scotland


Photo: Cathy Ratcliff, CEO, EMMS & Sebastian Ficsher, CEO, VOCAL in front of Hawthron Brae cottage

Thanks to a new partnership between EMMS International, Scotland’s international healthcare charity and VOCAL – Voice of Carers Across Lothian, a historic century-old legacy lives on, with the opening of a new cottage-styled house, Hawthorn Brae, in the beautiful surroundings of Blair Atholl. The cottage was formally opened on 8th June 2022, during Carers Week, and will offer respite and clean air for people with life-limiting conditions and their carers for years to come.

In the late 1800s, Edinburgh woman, Margaret Sanson, gifted her home on her death to the Scottish healthcare charity, EMMS International. Her desire was that it would be used to provide respite for "people of Edinburgh of ill-health and limited means to relax and enjoy clean air." Her home, Hawthorn Brae, provided relief for thousands of people with poor health living in poverty during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

In a recent re-organisation of the legacy fund, EMMS International entrusted the legacy to VOCAL, with approval from the Scottish Charities Regulator (OSCR), in a partnership agreement between the two charities so that it could benefit more people each year.

Taking a break from caring routines can have a hugely positive impact on emotional and physical health, sense of isolation and social contact. But VOCAL’s 2021 Carer Survey found that many carers and families are unable to take a break due to financial difficulties, the stress of planning and a lack of alternative caring arrangements. One carer commented:

“Completely exhausted and running on empty. I never feel rested, just depleted…I suffer with horrendous migraines and the doctors have told me to reduce the stress levels in my life, but how is this possible?”

People who are cared for benefit from a change of scene, as evidenced in the holiday scheme which EMMS International used to operate on a smaller scale with this legacy. One person with a life-limiting condition commented:

“I loved it; thank you for giving me this opportunity; it will be a positive memory I can remember; I love being with my family, especially with the children being able to drop by.”

VOCAL Chief Executive, Sebastian Fischer, said:

“We know from the management of Edinburgh’s Carers Recovery Fund that many carers and their families are struggling to cope with the current cost of living crisis and need support to fund their basic daily needs. “The barriers carers and those they care for face when taking a break have increased as a result of the current economic situation. Hawthorn Brae will help those in greatest need to access a free break from caring routines.”

EMMS International CEO and Director of International Programmes, Cathy Ratcliff, said:

“It’s an honour and a privilege to have been involved in ensuring the legacy and wishes of Margaret Sanson live on. The power of one person’s gift will continue to provide respite for Edinburgh residents with life-limiting conditions who are of limited financial means for years to come. Our partnership will improve the health and healthcare of people not only internationally, but here at home.”

Every year, Hawthorn Brae will benefit over 50 carers and the people they care for, providing a break from caring routines and making a difference to their physical and mental health.