Funds crisis threatens hospices

Indira Das-Gupta

The Association of Children's Hospices is warning that vital services will be forced to close unless the Government replaces lottery funding.

In 2002, the now defunct New Opportunities Fund awarded a £15m grant to children's hospices, which dried up this March.

"We are already using our reserves - if we don't get funding by 2008 we will have to close," said John Quill, chief executive of the Pasque Charity, which provides palliative care in Bedfordshire.

Quill added: "It's almost as if we have been too good at fundraising within the community, so now the Government thinks we will just keep on going."

ACH is due to meet with Prime Minister Tony Blair today, but despite continued lobbying it has yet to receive a commitment to finding alternative funding.

A spokesman for ACH said: "We are very pleased a dialogue has opened up. It has taken us a very long time to get here."

For East Anglian Children's Hospices, which has already lost 30 out of 180 employees, the meeting has come too late.

A spokeswoman said: "We've had a double blow because the tsunami saw our donations reduced by 25 per cent in the first part of last year, and now we no longer have lottery funding.

"Adult hospices receive about 30 per cent of funding from government or primary care trusts, while we receive only 10 per cent. We would like to see our funding on a par with adult palliative care."

Although it is hoped that today's meeting will at least bring a pledge to plug the gap in funding, ACH is calling on the Government to commit itself in the long term as well.

The ACH spokesman said: "On average, only 2.7 per cent of the running costs of children's hospices in England comes from statutory sources, and more than one-third of hospices get nothing. It's simply not good enough."

The Government is due to introduce a national payment system for palliative care providers in 2008.

But there have already been suggestions from officials at the Department of Health that payments will be lower for the voluntary sector (Third Sector, 10 May).

FACT FILE

- Vital services will have to close if the Government does not replace lottery funding, says the Association of Children's Hospices

- Children's hospices received a £15m grant in 2002 from the now defunct New Opportunities Fund. The grant dried up in March

- ACH is meeting Tony Blair today, but has not yet got a commitment to longer-term statutory funding.

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