Representatives of the UK’s children’s hospices will meet with prime minister Tony Blair today to ask for an immediate cash injection to stop essential services for terminally ill children being axed.
Around 4,300 children are given free specialist care and support by 39 children’s hospices around the country, but these services are under threat and some hospices may have to close now that a major Lottery grant is starting to run out.
The Association of Children’s Hospices said the sector only receives 2.7 per cent of funding from government sources, with a third of children’s hospices getting no form of statutory funding. The charity also said that public donations are declining and blamed a “hugely competitive fundraising environment”.
The ACH is asking the prime minister to make sure services are not put at immediate risk, and to commit to more statutory funding and long-term financial stability. ACH chief executive Babara Gelb said: “We will be telling him that children’s hospice services need greater government support to avoid cuts.
“Children’s hospices can no longer afford to depend on private donations. They need government funding both for their long-term future and to address the immediate problems created by the end of income from the Lottery.”
Peter Ellis, chief executive of Richard House Children’s hospice in Easy London, said: “It costs over £2.5m a year to run Richard House, and this is typical of hospices across the country.
“We all desperately need the government to help. Better funding could also radically improve hospices’ ability to reach out to many more children and their families, giving them the support they need whatever their background and wherever they live.”
An ACH spokesperson said they were hopeful the government would listen. “It’s great that we’ve managed to set up this meeting, but you never know. The last Labour manifesto said they would double end-of-life care funding, but this wasn’t clear in regard to children’s services.”