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A bleak funding landscape could push lifeline children’s hospices to their limits

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Together for Short Lives warns that lifeline children’s hospices face an uncertain funding future. As the UK gets set to take tentative steps to leave Covid 19 behind, our children’s hospices feel its effects more than ever – with over three quarters expecting their income to fall yet again this year, leaving them on a vulnerable financial footing. They need additional cash support to stop them being pushed to their limits. We are asking everyone to support their local children’s hospice by pushing themselves to the limit by taking on a fundraising challenge.

Children’s hospices deliver lifeline care to the UK’s most vulnerable and seriously ill children and families. Caring for a seriously ill child 24/7 at home can be exhausting, lonely and isolating, and after a year of shielding from the pandemic families need the support of their hospice more than ever.

Carly, Mum to Aidan, who has a serious and rare condition relies on Alexander Devine children’s hospice for vital support and would be lost without it says:

This last year has been like a pressure cooker for our family. We’re exhausted and worried. We’ve never felt so isolated. A year of shielding and lockdown has pushed my family to our limits.

Carly, Mum to Aidan

And families like Elijah’s who receive lifeline support from Little Haven’s hospice.

“It’s so important that parents of life-limited children – and the wider community – understand what children’s hospices do and how much they benefit these children who, a lot of the time, are scraping up the little bits of help the NHS is able to give them in term of therapies.” says Elijah’s mum, Natasha.

The people at Little Havens understand Elijah's needs, they're enthusiastic at helping us get the best out of his life, and everything is tailored to allow us to do that

Elijah’s mum, Natasha

Together for Short Lives has published new findings of a children’s hospice funding survey today which reveals the impact of the pandemic on hospice funding and predictions for their income 2021/22. You can read the full report here.

Last year children’s hospice fundraising was hit hard by the pandemic, especially income from charity shops, community and events fundraising, and public donations. In 2020/21 the survey found:

  • On average hospice income from charity shops and trading activities fell by over half (57 per cent).
  • Average income from fundraising challenge events fell by over half (58 per cent).
  • Income from community fundraising fell by a third (33 per cent) and individual donations fell by 8 per cent.

Although children’s hospices received much-needed government covid emergency funding last year, that funding has ceased. And while the UK economic outlook is more positive, children’s hospices predict that fundraising will not reach pre-pandemic levels in the coming year. Together for Short Lives says that children’s hospice sector faces a perfect storm. The number of seriously ill children is rising, and so is demand for hospice care, which means children’s hospices need to raise more money to provide essential care. But this demand is growing as children’s hospices feel the financial impact of the pandemic. This coming year will be especially challenging for children’s hospices who predict that fundraising and income levels will drop below their 2019/20 levels. Children’s hospice funding predictions for 2021/22 show:

  • Over three quarters (77 per cent) of children’s hospices expect their income to fall this year.
  • On average children’s hospices expect their income to decrease by 17% and expect a net deficit of £324,307.97 in 2021/22.
  • Individually, over 80% (83 per cent) of children’s hospices expect to report a deficit in 2021/22.
  • Children’s hospices anticipate that although income from trading and traditional fundraising will be up on last year, they say they will not reach the pre-covid income levels of 2019/20: Community fundraising (20% down on 2019/20), challenge events funding (21% down on 2019/20), and charity shops and trading (3% down on 2019/20)

Although children’s hospices in England receive government and NHS income from a variety of funding streams, this only accounts for about a third of what they spend on providing lifeline care and support. The majority of funding continues to be met by trading income, corporate funders and trusts, and the generosity of the public.

Worryingly the survey found that statutory income from local authorities in England remains patchy and inconsistent and is not enough to make sure all seriously ill children and their families can access the hospice respite breaks they desperately need. Despite recent modest increases in local authority funding, it only covers a small proportion (4 per cent) of the charitable costs incurred by children’s hospices, and funding varies considerably across local areas.

  • Three quarters (74 per cent) of children’s hospices reported a cut or freeze in their local authority funding between 2019/20 and 2020/21.
  • 63 per cent of children’s hospices expect their local authority funding to be cut or frozen between 2020/21 and 2021/22.

“Caring for a seriously ill child brings many life-enriching joys but caring round the clock is exhausting and takes a huge toll on the whole family. After a year of shielding, families with seriously ill children are pushed to their limits and need support more than ever. They rely on a range of local services, including their children’s hospice to provides them with the time and care they need to make memories that last a lifetime – the chance to be parents, not carers,” says Andy Fletcher, CEO for Together for Short Lives.

“Throughout the pandemic children’s hospices stepped up their efforts to take the pressure of the NHS, as well as delivering lifeline support and emergency crisis care to seriously ill children, and thankfully the government provided much-needed emergency funding last year in return for hospices providing that capacity.”

But as the UK starts to move forward this summer, it’s vital we don’t leave our children’s hospices behind. We are calling on the public to help children’s hospices to be there for families, today and long into the future, by pushing themselves to their limits this Children’s Hospice Week and raising vital funds – so children’s hospices aren’t pushed to theirs.

Andy Fletcher, CEO, Together for Short Lives

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