Together for Short Lives is deeply concerned by a new report which has found that brothers and sisters of seriously ill children risk being left with poorer mental health and educational outcomes unless there is more funding to support them.
‘See us, Hear us, Notice us: The case for supporting siblings of seriously ill children’, published by Rainbow Trust Children’s Charity, was featured on BBC Breakfast on Thursday 20 December. It sets out how parents will often have less time to focus on healthy siblings – and that emotionally, the healthy child may struggle to understand what is happening their brother or sister.
The report has found that demand for sibling support is increasing – and that the support provided to brothers and sisters by Rainbow Trust could be saving around £418,000 for the health, education and social care system each year.
Children’s social care services such as short breaks for respite have been proven to help relieve the pressure on families. Yet as council budgets have been cut, Together for Short Lives has found that too few local authorities plan and fund them:
- More than one in five (21%) local authorities do not commission short breaks for children with life-limiting and life-threatening conditions, despite having a legal duty to do so.
- Overall, local authorities contributed just 2% to charitable expenditure of voluntary sector children’s palliative care providers in 2016/17.
- 44% of children’s hospice and palliative care charities in England receive no money whatsoever from their local authorities.
“Hearing the news that your brother or sister is going to die young is heartbreaking” says Andy Fletcher, Chief Executive of Together for Short Lives. “The impact on children is complex, enduring and can be too much to bear, deeply affecting their mental health, well-being and education. Getting the right support early on can make a real difference. Specialist support from charities like Rainbow Trust and children’s hospices is vital and can be a lifeline to these children and families – but this needs sustainable funding. As members of the Disabled Children’s Partnership, we are calling on the government create a fund to plug the £1.5bn gap, making sure services can intervene early to help keep families resilient and support siblings. The Spending Review provides ministers with an ideal opportunity to do this.”