MP shines light on funding uncertainty for Children’s Palliative care

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Shadow Children’s Minister Steve McCabe secured a debate in Parliament to raise the issue about the uncertainty of future funding for children’s palliative care.


Steve has had a long association with the brilliant Acorns Children’s Hospice in his constituency and was anxious that continuing uncertainty over government plans might lead to a funding hiatus immediately before and after the election in May which could have a damaging impact on the finances and long term planning of children’s hospices and palliative care.


Steve McCabe and David Strudley CEO of Acorns Hospice met with Health Minister Norman Lamb last year to raise this issue. Steve wanted to raise the issue again in a parliamentary debate to shine a light on the issue.


The Government hopes to establish a clearer funding path for children’s palliative care and hospice services by introducing a new per-patient funding system. While the children’s hospice movement broadly supports the principle of per-patient funding Steve wanted to know more about how it will work and how short breaks and bereavement care will be funding as it is not included in this per-patient funding strategy.


Steve raised a number of questions which have been driving uncertainty among palliative care providers:


-          Would the government be keeping the Hospice Grant which accounts for over 13% of care costs incurred by Children’s Hospices?

-          What steps the government would take to ensure that funding for short breaks and bereavement care which are not covered by the new government plans would be maintained?

-          Will Clinical Commissioning Groups and Local Authorities recognise the work of children’s hospices and not seek to save money by commissioning ‘cheaper’ services elsewhere?

-          Do plans take account of children with life threatening conditions who are no living longer due to advances in medical science?


Steve said, ‘I appreciate one parliament can’t bind the next but I thought it was really clear that we got all the issues on the record and made sure the needs and concerns of the children’s hospice movement are recognised and that my support for them is clear. Obviously I hope it will be my party which will be forming the next government after the election but I have seen, in the past, how reports go missing and civil servants can have a lapse of memory about the previous government’s intentions.


“Acorns and other children’s hospice organisations do an absolutely fantastic job. It’s vital that they are able to plan for the future, safe and secure in the knowledge that they will have a reliable funding base even if a general election intervenes. Personally, I think this should all have been tidied up before the election but I am reassured that the minister’s answers gives us a framework and some clear commitments from which we can make progress.’


In essence the government wants to create new ‘units of currency’ by which grant and activities can be funded both from specialised funding and Clinical Commissioning Groups. The hospice movement isn’t opposed to the changes but having spent more than three years working with government on this project they are in desperate need of short term funding guarantees and long term assurance about what will happen to the work in future years.


Acorns Hospice in Selly Oak, who first approached Steve with their concerns, is also developing an ‘at home’ service for terminally ill children and provides a range of support including short breaks; family support; and, end of life care. It is currently looking at some new work which will include training, workshops and independent living for terminally ill young people who might now live into their late twenties or early thirties.


Last year Acorns supported over 700 children and more than 1050 families including those who were bereaved. Acorns doesn’t charge families for using its services.


For full Hansard of debate please visit

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