Children’s palliative care charity Together for Short Lives is disappointed at the lack of support in the Spring Budget for the UK’s 49,000 children with life-limiting or life-threatening conditions.
We believe that the Chancellor had a golden opportunity to transform the lives of these seriously ill children by addressing the postcode lottery in funding for children’s palliative care.
It’s very disappointing and worrying that the Chancellor has excluded seriously ill children’s social care from the £2 billion additional funding which he has announced for local authorities in England. This blow compounds recent funding cuts. Councils’ contribution to the cost of providing children’s palliative care in the voluntary sector fell significantly by 61% between 2014/15 and 2015/16. It is simply unsustainable for local authorities to contribute just 1% to the costs incurred by children’s palliative care charities.
The Chancellor could also have followed the example set by Scottish Government ministers, who have increased funding for children’s hospices so there is parity with funding for adult hospices. It is an outrage that on average, adult hospices in England receive 33% of their funding from statutory sources and children hospices receive an average of 22%.
Unless these funding gaps are addressed, then we, as a country, are making a judgement that we place greater value on the life of an adult than that of a child. This is not fair.
The government also had the opportunity to right a wrong by lifting the baby benefit bar which currently means that children under three are unable to access the mobility component of the Disability Living Allowance (DLA). This benefit would allow families to buy or have access to a specially adapted vehicle which would allow families to travel safely with their children and the bulky life support equipment they need. The change required to support these families would amount to £5-6m a year. It would transform the lives of over 2,000 children and their families.
Barbara Gelb OBE, Chief Executive of Together for Short Lives, said: “Budget 2017 confirms our worst fears: sadly it seems only the loudest voices are being heard and the weakest, the most vulnerable children in our society, and their families, are being pushed to the periphery. Unless the government actively steps in to fix this broken system, which is supposed to give these families the support they need, then they will never be part of the ambition for a stronger, fairer, better Britain which works for everyone.”
You can read what we called on the Chancellor to do at Budget 2017 in Together for Short Lives representation to the Treasury. Together for Short Lives will continue to press ministers to bring about the reforms so desperately needed by the 49,000 children in the UK who need palliative care. We welcome the government’s intention to publish a green paper on social care funding; we will use this opportunity to make a strong case for social care funding for children and young people to be put on a more secure and sustainable long term footing.