The chair of trustees at a leading children’s hospice has called for more “continuity and consistency” in terms of government funding.
Brad McLean, from East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH), was speaking on BBC Radio 4’s flagship Today programme, in response to an interview with Health Secretary Victoria Atkins.
Ms Atkins was challenged on hospice funding but while adult centres receive a third of their income from statutory sources, organisations like EACH rely on just 15%.
“Children’s hospices don’t seem to make it into the conversation as much as they should,” Brad told presenter Amol Rajan.
“We receive even less funding and the rest has to come from voluntary income.
“Adult hospices are dramatically underfunded but children’s hospices are even more so.
“Ultimately, we need more money but we also need continuity and consistency within the funding model, so we know what we’re going to receive.
“We need more security, so we can plan our services, and, in terms of statutory funding, we simply don’t have that.
“At the moment, we don’t even know what the next year or so looks like because it’s dependent on funding applications.
“We go to the five care boards that we deal with and apply for funding on a yearly basis, but there’s no model from the government.”
EACH, which has bases in Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk, needs to raise £6.7 million a year from fundraising and £7.8 million a year in retail income, from its 47 shops.
This year, it only received 15% of its total income from statutory sources, including the Government, County Councils and Integrated Care Boards.
“I don’t know why children’s hospices receive less than adult hospices,” added Brad. “It’s an excellent question.
“We’re constantly asking for more funding.
“However, unfortunately, those conversations don’t get a lot of traction.
“Instead, we rely heavily on fundraising and our shops and that’s what we continue to focus on.
“For us, that’s £12 million a year and if that dries up we’re in a lot of trouble.
“A lot of children’s hospices across the country have had to fold or close sites because its funding has dried up.
“Not being able to rely on a good chunk of your income from central government puts a huge amount of pressure on the services we offer.
“It’s very difficult to look two, three or four years into the future.”
Brad is a bereaved dad whose family received care and support from EACH.
“Our hospices are happy places and the overwhelming majority of the work our amazing teams do is to provide an exceptional quality of life for children and their family,” he added.
“It might be a child that was recently diagnosed with a condition and may only have weeks or months left, or it might be a child with a complex, long-term condition from birth. They might receive our care for ten to 15 years.
“The whole idea is to provide them with a quality of life and to help their families – to give their parents and carers a break and also to support their siblings, who are so often forgotten about.
“Organisations like ours are so important and the service we provide is vital.”
EACH Chief Executive Phil Gormley said the topic needed to be discussed in the national media and welcomed the exposure.
“It’s a national debate and I think the families we support will be relieved and encouraged to hear it being discussed, especially on a flagship show like the Today programme,” he said.
“I know from my own experiences that people are genuinely shocked to hear about the situation in terms of government funding. It comes as a revelation.
“In essence, we rely on the kindness of strangers to provide our vital, critical care, whereas people assume we are underpinned by statutory sources.
“In fact, if we received all our statutory income on 1st April, it would have run out by the 10th May. That can’t possibly be right.”
Brad was speaking on the Today programme on Friday morning (22nd December).