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Investment welcome, but austerity continues for seriously ill children

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Houses of Parliament

The Chancellor of the Exchequer has used his Budget 2018 speech this afternoon (29 October) to signal the end of austerity across the UK. However, despite the claims, the Chancellor’s speech has not done enough to ease the financial pressures affecting seriously ill children and their families across the UK.

In the Budget, the government has announced that it will:

  • make a further £410 million available in 2019-20 for adults and children’s social care; HM Treasury says that local councils can use it to improve their social care offer for older people, people with disabilities and children
  • provide councils with an additional £55 million in 2018-19 for the Disabled Facilities Grant to provide home aids and adaptations for disabled children and adults on low incomes
  • ensure that the NHS will prioritise mental health services for children and young people, with schools-based mental health support teams and specialist crisis teams for young people.

However, Together for Short Lives is disappointed that the Chancellor has largely ignored calls to invest in crucial children’s palliative care services and help improve outcomes for some of the UK’s most vulnerable children.

In our submission to the Treasury ahead of the Budget, we called for:

  • An increase for the Children’s Hospice Grant to £25 million per year to reflect the growing demand and complexity of care required by children with life-limiting conditions and their families.
  • Parity of funding between children’s and adult palliative care services; Children’s hospices currently receive only 22% of their funding from statutory sources, compared to 33% in adult hospices
  • The introduction of a funded children’s palliative care strategy. We asked that the government commit to a national inquiry, producing a children’s palliative care strategy that takes a family-centred and holistic approach to health, social care and educational interventions.

We also asked the Treasury to invest in mobility support for children under the age of three, short breaks and smoother transitions between children’s and adult services.

“This Budget was an ideal opportunity to invest in the lifeline palliative care services that the UK’s most vulnerable children rely on” says Andy Fletcher, Chief Executive of Together for Short Lives. “While I welcome the additional funding for social care, it falls short of the additional £434 million needed by local authorities for disabled children’s social care services. Social care is crucial for the growing number of children in the UK with life-limiting conditions and their families.”

Children with life-limiting and life-threatening conditions rely on a range of palliative care services, in hospitals, children’s hospices and the community, to manage their symptoms and give their families a regular break. Without them, they are more likely to need costly, unplanned emergency treatment. Despite the impact they have, lifeline services provided by charities like children’s hospices still receive just a fraction of their costs from the state.

Andy Fletcher added:

“We know that these families are under tremendous strain and at risk of physical and mental breakdown resulting from the pressures they face. A recent inquiry carried out by the APPG for Children Who Need Palliative Care found that access to crucial children’s palliative care services is patchy, inconsistent and dependent on where in England families live. It is time for the government to invest in services which will save money and address this wholly unjustified health inequality.”

You can read the full Budget 2018 documents on the HM Treasury website here.

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