Vital charity set to shed jobs

A HOSPICE charity which supports sick children and their families is to cut jobs and the number of beds due to a huge shortfall in funds, it has been revealed.

By Danielle Nuttall

A HOSPICE charity which supports sick children and their families is to cut jobs and the number of beds due to a huge shortfall in funds, it has been revealed.

East Anglia's Children's Hospices' (EACH) three-year funding agreement with the Big Lottery Fund comes to an end in March, leaving it short of £640,000 per year.

At the same time, the number of families backed by EACH has risen by 20% in the past five years to 350, which has significantly increased costs.

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The charity, which runs the East Anglian Children's Hospice in Ipswich, as well two others in Cambridge and Norfolk, has been forced to undertake a consultation exercise with families as it grapples with the financial hardship.

But it admits job losses and a reduction in beds for overnight respite care for children is the only possible solution.

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In its Closer to Home document, EACH estimates it will need to cut the number of full-time care staff posts by 25, which will save £600,000 in salaries, taxes, and pensions.

It is not known at this stage where those cuts will be made.

The majority of care is presently provided inside the charity's three hospices, but EACH hopes to transform the method of service so that more is undertaken in the community, reducing the demands for in-house hospice care.

Each outlines two options for consideration. The first is to reduce the number of beds available over the seven-day period at each hospice, which will cut the number of in-house nights available from 3,400 to 2,100.

If chosen, this option would mean at least 130 families would no longer be able to access in-house care through EACH.

The charity's second, preferred option, is to radically change the way services are delivered by focussing more on community care.

This option would reduce the number of in-house nights available for care from 3,400 to about 1,700 while pushing up the number of community-based nursing care episodes from 750 to 5,000.

Graham Butland, Chief Executive of EACH, said the staff cuts would happen whatever option the charity decided because it had to close the £600,000 shortfall in funding.

“We would prefer the second option because that will give us the opportunity to respond more flexibly to many of our families. Care is following the child rather than the child following the care,” he said.

“We can provide more sessions of care by providing more in the community so that means within our reduced resources at least we can continue to provide support to our existing families and also to future families.

“We cannot get away from the fact there is an issue about the funding of children's hospices. It's not easy to make reductions in staff as our clients are very, very dependant on the services we provide.

“Nobody else provides this - that makes it doubly difficult.”

The charity relies on voluntary donations and support from the public.

In 2005-06 alone, it will cost £4.7m to run the hospices, with only 10% of income from the Government.

Families and staff are currently being consulted about the changes and the charity plans to implement them early in the New Year.

Fundraising lottery in aid of EACHMake a donation to EACH online

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