Cape Town 150414. Afikile Jika is one of the children that is taken care of by Iris house. Premier Helen Zille officiallly open Iris House Children's Hospice. Iris House is the first special need’s children’s community and hospice-based respite care service in South Africa. The charity is committed to enriching the quality of life for special needs children and young people with life-limiting or life-threatening conditions and providing support to their families.Picture Cindy Waxa.Reporter Sipokazi/Argus

Cape Town - Children who have special needs and are terminally ill can now be cared for in a home away from home after a city children’s hospice opened its doors.

The Iris House, the first special needs children’s home in the country - which offers community and hospice-based respite care - was officially opened on Tuesday by Premier Helen Zille.

The charity organisation, which started its work four years ago, had been offering its services in children’s own homes as it had no space of its own.

After acquiring a derelict building and funding from the provincial government, the house was revamped and will now offer services, including educational activities, various therapies and stimulation to children with special needs and those who have life-limiting health conditions.

Sue van der Linde, who started the charity in 2011, said the house would provide day services to families of children with conditions such as cerebral palsy, autism, and other severe neurological syndromes.

Unlike traditional hospices where patients were institutionalised, Van der Linde said the house would be community-based and provide day services “to give moms and dads of these children a break”.

“We believe that kids belong in their own family care. Our service will be that of providing support to these parents, giving them a break to go out and have time to themselves instead of caring for their sick child 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” she said.

In 2012, the provincial government provided funding to allow for the expansion of their services.

To date the Department of Social Development has provided R1.7 million towards this initiative.

Currently Iris House has 155 registered families who are provided with support and free respite care services.

Cape Argus