Children's hospices struggling with funding crisis, report claims

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Children's hospices are on the brink of a funding crisis owing to cuts and freezes in local authority and NHS spending, according to a report.

The study, from the charities Hospice UK and Together for Short Lives, found hospices are struggling due to falling state income as a proportion of their costs - which are rising by about 10% every year.

In 2015/16, 21 children's palliative charities which provided data received an average of £43,095 in local authority funding.

But this was 61% less than they received in 2014/15, when the average was £110,909 per organisation. The current amount is only 1% of what children's hospices need to run.

The report also found that the NHS England children's hospice grant has remained static, at £377,106 in 2015/16 for children's hospices compared to £356,166 in 2013/14.

The report said there is a similar picture for adult palliative care, with 65% of hospices for adults having statutory funding frozen or cut in the last financial year.

Barbara Gelb, chief executive of Together for Short Lives, said: "We urge the Government to listen to children and their families and end this crisis in children's palliative care funding.

"The needs of this relatively small but nevertheless significant and growing number of children, with the weakest voice, are often not heard or ignored.

"Inadequate funding of children's palliative care services - across health and social care - means we are collectively failing the most vulnerable children in society, choosing to turn away from families who need help the most.

"We believe that ministers should follow the example of the Scottish Government, which has recently committed £30 million to the Children's Hospice Association Scotland over the next five years.

"We're calling on the UK Government to re-examine funding arrangements as a matter of urgency and carry out a national inquiry into the state of children's palliative care funding in England."

Tracey Bleakley, chief executive of Hospice UK, said: "The current statutory funding situation for adult hospices is very concerning and poses a significant threat to the long-term sustainability of the sector.

"Hospices are having to deliver more year after year with standstill NHS resources, putting more pressure on community fundraising to help bridge the gap. This all comes when an ageing population is putting unprecedented demand on hospice care services

"There needs to be more investment and also fairer funding from the Government for hospice care now - to supplement the vital support provided by local communities and prevent hospices reaching crisis point."

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "The Government strongly values the role of the hospice sector in providing excellent end of life care across the country.

"Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) determine the level of NHS-funded hospice care locally and they are responsible for ensuring that the services they commission meet the needs of their local population. NHS England is developing a per-patient funding system for palliative care to support commissioners and ensure that palliative care in all settings, including hospices, is funded fairly and transparently."