It has led to huge anxiety for staff running hospices, patients and their families.
Paul Farthing, the chief executive of Shooting Star Children’s Hospices, said: “We gratefully receive funding from the Government
but it hasn’t committed to providing this long-term. If this vital source of income ceases, services at children’s hospices across England will be at risk.
“We would have no choice but to cut costs or rely on our supporters to raise the difference – and with the cost-of-living crisis this is a huge ask.”
Many hospices say if the grant is not continued they would have to consider slashing services with a reduction in care picked up by the over-stretched NHS.
The grant provides around one pound in every six spent by children’s hospices on care. But officials have refused to commit to extending it after 2023-2024.
Children’s hospices are charities and most have to arrange fundraising for 80 per cent of their income with a fraction coming from the NHS and councils.
An audit carried out by Hospice UK – the national charity for hospice and end-of-life care – led it to estimate that hospices will spend £186million more than they raise over the next year.
And hospice energy bills are set to increase by £29million as they battle to operate in “the most difficult economic climate ever”.
The centres are facing soaring energy and food costs, plummeting donations and having to match NHS pay awards.
A total of 38 per cent of hospices received no more or reduced levels of Government funding last year. And 96 per cent are budgeting for a deficit this financial year. The average adult hospice in England gets 32 percent of its funding from health budgets while children’s hospices get 17 per cent.
Children’s hospices have been part of the fabric of our communities for decades, built and supported by people who care about helping others.
One parent compares our support to “the scaffolding that holds up your life so you can keep going”.
Increasingly we are working alongside the NHS, delivering specialist palliative and end-of-life care to children with incredibly complex medical needs.
We give families a choice, including the hardest one they will make – where their child dies. We give expert clinical care – inspected by the same regulator which looks at hospitals – plus therapies and bereavement support, which is under-funded in the public sector.
But the high cost of living is impacting hospices significantly. We already have to raise over £10million a year, just to maintain our services. Most comes from incredible people and companies.
We also currently get funding from the Government through the Children’s Hospice Grant, but that arrangement is due to end in spring next year. Families in England with a life-limited or dying child deserve the best care possible, so we’re urging the Government to continue their commitment to vital services by renewing and ring-fencing the grant.
PAUL FARTHING is the Chief Executive of Shooting Star Children’s Hospices.
It means all rely heavily on community fundraising. But, with bills rising, people with complex end-of-life needs could soon be left without support as some hospices could be forced to close.
Toby Porter, the chief executive of Hospice UK, said: “Children’s hospices need immediate clarity as to how much funding they will receive from the next phase of the Children’s Hospice Grant and how it will be delivered. We can’t keep relying on communities being able to increase their donations.
“This approach to funding would be unacceptable in any other area of our healthcare system and it shouldn’t be acceptable in end-of-life care either. If maternity services relied on marathons and bake sales, there would rightfully be uproar. Yet essential children’s hospice care increasingly seems to rely on fragile and unpredictable sources of income.
The care and support you receive in your last months, weeks and days of life can be the most important.
When I talk to local hospices, such as St Cuthbert’s in my constituency, I see how they provide such sensitive and compassionate care to everyone.
But hospices and the vital support they provide are at risk.
The Government must act now to save their services.
Research by Hospice UK has shown that hospices are facing a collective deficit of £186million thanks to soaring costs in energy, food and staffing.
Children’s hospices have to fundraise around 80 per cent of their income from their local communities.
Many hospices are now worrying about how to fundraise enough to match ever increasing costs when their local communities no longer have as much to give.
No one can deny the important work of children’s hospices, providing care and support for children and their families.
But it’s almost impossible for them to plan services when their income is so precarious. I firmly support Hospice UK’s call for urgent financial support for the sector and urge the Government to act quickly to ensure hospices have the funding and certainty they need.
MARY KELLY FOY is Labour MP for City of Durham
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“Every children’s hospice in the UK wants to be able to commit to being able to help any child or family who needs them – a simple but incredibly important promise.
“But in order to do so, the sector needs long-term, sustainable funding. We are asking the Government to recognise this and to let children’s hospices know whether and how this vital funding will be continued.”
An NHS spokesman said last night that the service committed to a five-year funding programme for children’s hospices in 2019. He added: “Discussion is currently ongoing with the hospice sector to determine arrangements beyond this financial year.”
The Daily Express is campaigning for hospices to get the support they need.
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