BEAUTIFUL hospice grounds will now be open to families facing difficult times during the pandemic.

Little Havens children’s hospice, based in Thundersley, has extensive landscaped gardens and surrounding woodland.

The accessible, tranquil space is being offered to families with children up to the age of 19 – perhaps with an illnesses, long term condition, additional learning or other exceptional family need.

Katie White, head of children’s services says: “With our spacious gardens, carefully planned access and thorough cleaning schedule, we’re able to offer this space for up to 90 minutes for families experiencing an exceptional crisis, or time away from the family home would help to de-escalate a situation.

“We have a range of specialist and standard playground equipment, sensory trails and secluded areas ideal for picnics or quiet time.

“We feel that families caring for a child with additional needs could really benefit from this offer.”

If the child is not already under the care of Little Havens, referrals can only be made by a professional involved with the family.

Families do not need to be under the current care of Little Havens, but an assessment must first take place to ensure vulnerable families most in need take priority.

Toby-Jay Harding, seven, from Southend, has been visiting with his family.

Mum Jayne said: “To be able to use the Little Havens garden is a lifeline to us. We are having to shield and it’s really tough on Toby-Jay as he has limited understanding, his behaviour is affected and this is starting to have an impact on his brother.

“To be able to come to such a big space that’s safe with lots for them to do means the world to my family.”

Access to the Little Havens building is prohibited apart from use of the toilet or changing facilities.

There is no nursing care or catering available and family members must be free of Covid-19 symptoms. Garden equipment will be cleaned after use.

There is no charge for this service, which continues thanks to donations made by supporters.