Caring for a child with a life-limiting condition can be emotionally, physically and financially demanding. Hospices provide a range of services both at home and in the hospice to help families cope with their situation – and to help them make the most of every day.
We are very fortunate to have two excellent children’s hospices here in Wales, Ty Gobaith near Conwy and Ty Hafan near Cardiff. The service and support that both of them provide are second to none and we should be making sure that they have the capacity to deal with the children from Wales who need the level of care and support they provide.
Sadly, though this is not happening and this month it was reported that they are reaching “crisis point”.
Both rely on public donations to survive, but they say uncertainty around funding affects their ability to plan and one said they were "living from hand to mouth, year to year".
Funding for children's hospices in Wales - which comes from local health boards rather than a central grant - has not been reviewed since 2009.
Welsh Government funding of children’s hospices in Wales as a percentage of its charitable expenditure is lower than in England and Scotland. In Wales, children’s hospices received 12% of their expenditure from Welsh Government funding last year, compared with 21% in England and 53% in Scotland.
In fact, the UK government is doubling children’s hospice funding to £25 million annually by 2023/24 and the Scottish government is providing £30 million over five years to support children’s hospices there. It is high time that Wales followed their lead and gave our children’s hospices the support they need.
A report last year by Healthcare Inspectorate Wales called 'How are healthcare services meeting the needs of young people?' made a very clear recommendation that the Welsh Government need to assess any unmet demand for palliative care services to make sure that children and young people across Wales get the care that they need.
Speaking in the Welsh Parliament at the time, I said: “I think it's very important that we understand the timescales for undertaking that piece of work to make sure that our constituents can get access to the very important palliative care that is sometimes unfortunately needed for children and young people”.
Yet nine months on the situation appears to be worse than ever, and it is not just children’s hospices that are suffering either. Welsh Government funding for adults’ hospices as a percentage of expenditure is lower in Wales than any other UK nation.
In 2018 in Wales, 16 charitable hospices provided direct care to over 11,500 people and their families, whilst reaching thousands more through their community engagement and development - 8,600 adults were seen by community care and hospice at home; 800 children were helped directly by charitable hospice care; there were 57,700 home visits by community care and hospice at home; and 2,300 families received bereavement care through hospices.
Wales’ hospices had a combined revenue of £36 million in 2018, and fundraised around £28 million. The financial support they need from the Welsh Government is just not forthcoming.
If we are to safeguard the vital services that our hospices provide, then it is vital that the Welsh Government listens to the warnings and takes action to secure sustainable funding for all our hospices here in North Wales, and across the rest of Wales.
To donate to Ty Gobaith Children’s Hospice visit: https://www.hopehouse.org.uk/Appeal/donate