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Community keeps fighting to save Walsall's Acorns children's hospice

By Jordan Reynolds | Walsall | News | Published:

A community has rallied round to raise thousands of pounds to help save Walsall's Acorns children's hospice from closure.

The fundraising team

Earlier this month it was announced Acorns is to close one of its three children’s hospices because of rising running costs and a drop in donations.

The charity will stop providing care at its hospice in Walsall from the end of September, if the proposal goes ahead.

The charity is currently supporting 233 families at Walsall and they will be offered the chance to attend either of the hospices in Birmingham and Worcester.

A total of 70 full-time and part-time staff at the Walstead Road hospice face losing their jobs.

Fundraisers working to keep Acorns open

Toby Porter, Acorns chief executive, has said the charity has been "overwhelmed" by the support it has received since the news broke.

He said: “We’ve been overwhelmed and humbled by the support we’ve had from the local community during what has been a very difficult time for everyone at Acorns.

"This demonstrates the value people place on our vital services for children with life limiting and life threatening conditions and their families.

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One of the fundraisers in the stocks

“We are doing all we can to try and find a solution to the funding challenges for our Walsall hospice, including discussions with MPs, council representatives and officials.

"We are heartened that so many of our supporters are fighting just as passionately.”

On Saturday hundreds of people attended a fundraising event at The Tiger Inn on Walstead Road, Walsall.

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Stalls, cakes, ice cream, burgers and an auction were all raising money for the hospice, and more than £1,500 had been raised within four hours.

Organiser Nadine Remington said her family decided to put on the event as the charity helped someone close to their hearts who passed away 17 years ago.

She said: "It's gone really really well we were busy all day.

Residents enjoying the event

"We had craft stalls, bric-a-brac, a tombola, and an auction with a signed Walsall ball and Albion tickets as well as a holiday in France.

"Workers and children from Acorns have come too.

"We lost a family member 17 years ago. Acorns is massively important to Walsall people, it's a life line for families."

Acorns care assistant for 17 years Lorraine Hawkesford and staff nurse for 18 months Becky Patel brought some of the children to the event.

Lorraine became emotional as she said how the fundraising events have "uplifted" the workers.

She said: "It's amazing what they've done, staff, everyone at the hospice were absolutely gutted with the news, but it's so uplifting to see people doing this for our kids.

"A lot of people just think it's the shop closing, they don't realise it's the actual hospice."

Becky added: "When you're in the hospice you feel cut off so it's been really positive."

Yew Tree resident Paul Jukes came to the event with his wife and three daughters.

The 55-year-old said: "It's fantastic, they've all done a marvellous job.

Lowest

"I've given my children money to spend and we're enjoying spending it as we know it's for a good cause."

It costs the charity nearly £10 million every year to provide its services and it relies on fundraising for the bulk of this amount.

The charity says the cost of providing care at its three hospices is “steadily” rising every year and is currently out-stripping it’s ability to raise all the fund it needs

During the past year it has also seen income from its network of more than 50 shops across the region and voluntary fundraising fall.

The total amount left to the charity by supporters in their will was also the lowest for many years and £1.4m less than the previous year.

The shortfall has been made up by the charity’s reserves but it says this is not sustainable especially if its income continues to fall.

The funding crisis at Acorns mirrors difficulties faced by similar charities across the UK. They face rising costs and falling donations while only a small proportion of their funding comes from the NHS.

Directors and trustees compared all three hospices before proposing to shut the Walsall site, which opened in 1999.

Acorns joins call to protect funding for lifeline care

The chief executive of Acorns Children’s Hospice has joined the calls for NHS boss Simon Stevens to honour his promise to properly fund children’s hospices.

It comes after a new survey from Together for Short Lives revealed that funding cuts are hitting lifeline care for seriously ill children across the UK.

Earlier this month Acorns announced a proposal to close its hospice in Walsall due to a shortage of funds.

Together for Short Lives is worried that this could be the tip of the iceberg, and along with hospices across the UK, is urging NHS England to protect the Children’s Hospice Grant – and go further by increasing it to £25million per year.

Toby Porter, acorns chief executive, said: “This is where the political choice comes. When a child goes to see their GP, it’s fully funded by the NHS. When they see a consultant, it’s fully funded by the NHS. When they’re admitted for in-patient hospital treatment, it’s fully funded by the NHS.

“Why are we as a society happy to say that when a child comes to a hospice, 70 per cent of the care they receive would have to be funded by charity reserves and the generosity of the public?

“This is complex healthcare and children’s hospices in the UK need a proper settlement from the NHS.”

Vital

An NHS England spokeswoman said: “NHS funding for children’s end of life care is going up every year and is set to more than double within the next five years, with up to £25 million going in to care as part of the NHS Long Term Plan.

“We are working with local health groups - including councils which of course have an important role to play in these services - and Together for Short Lives to provide the kind of support that children and their families want.”

Bereaved parent Mark Lyttle, whose daughter Isabella received care at Acorns, said the charity’s support is vital for families like his.

“My daughter passed away in April after an eight-an-a-half year battle with a neuroblastoma. Acorns gave her such a boost and it helped her to continue her fight. I don’t think we would have had as long as we did with Isabella if it wasn’t for the support of the staff at Acorns.

“We are so grateful to Walsall Acorns. They did feed Isabella’s determination, bravery, courage and fight. She was defined by her smile and that’s what Acorns put on her face.”

Earlier this week, Mr Porter and Mr Lyttle jmet with MPs from the Black Country, asking them to ensure Mr Stevens honours his commitment to protect and increase children’s hospice funding.

They agreed to write to Health Secretary Matt Hanock to ask if the Government can step in to help save the hospice from closure.

If the proposal goes ahead, the charity could cease offering care from the centre in Walstead Road from the end of September.

Jordan Reynolds

By Jordan Reynolds
Reporter - @jreynolds_star

Senior reporter at the Express & Star.

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