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Sustainably funded children’s palliative care no closer despite ‘long-term decisions’ Budget

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The UK Government’s Spring Budget provides no clarity on future funding for seriously ill children.

Despite some positive news, Budget 2024 was a missed opportunity for the Chancellor to provide sustainable, long-term funding to fill gaps in underfunded and understaffed children’s palliative care services across the UK.

With the annual NHS funding gap for children’s palliative care in England standing at £300 million – and, as yet, no clarity for children’s hospices on how and when they will receive the 2024/25 Children’s Hospice Grant – the Chancellor has done very little to improve the situation of seriously ill children and their families across the UK. The additional £2.5 billion of funding for the NHS in England in 2024/25 is good news, but amid rising costs and rising demand for services, it isn’t enough to ensure that children with the most complex needs get the care and support they need.

A more productive NHS can only be a good thing. But without investing to ensure there are enough professionals with the skills and experience to provide complex palliative care to children, we will simply not have enough people to deliver the 24/7 care closer to families’ homes that reduce the unplanned hospital admissions that are so costly for the NHS.

The Treasury also failed to offer families of seriously ill children the support they need to meet the costs of powering lifesaving equipment and heating their homes, which remain significantly higher than for other households.

Amid a persisting cost of living crisis for families of seriously ill children, I welcome the decision to extend the Household Support Fund in England from April to September 2024. However, the lack of a social energy tariff or targeted support for households with seriously ill children means that their families will continue to have to bear disproportionately high costs, even as the price of energy comes down.

The £105 million to fund 15 new special free schools is positive but does not address the urgent need for more specialist support in mainstream education settings. Aside from re-confirming the recent local government finance settlement, the Budget provides no new money to help fill the £573 million gap in local authority funding for disabled children’s social care.

The Chancellor has also failed to address the very real difficulties and cuts to financial support that families of disabled children are experiencing when moving onto Universal Credit.

Long-term decisions are needed to make sure the access to palliative care for children and families is levelled up across the UK. But the Chancellor has failed to recognise that families with seriously ill children are not ordinary. For them, time is short – and they needed urgent action now.

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