Birmingham & Black Country

Walsall Acorns children's hospice to close

Gemma Harris with daughter Remi
Image caption Gemma Harris, whose daughter Remi attends Acorns, said it was "devastating"

A children's hospice is set to close due to a lack of funds.

Acorns in Walsall, which looked after 200 children in the last year, could shut at the beginning of October.

Chief executive Toby Porter said he was not hiding the "devastating impact" the closure would have, adding it was "desperately sad" but "the right decision".

Staff and families have been told and care will be transferred to Acorns sites in Birmingham and Worcester.

The charity cared for about 800 children, plus their families, across the West Midlands last year.

A month-long consultation with staff in Walsall has started. About 70 people could lose their jobs.

Image caption Toby Porter said closing the Walsall centre was "desperately sad"

Mr Porter said it had been "a bad year" for the charity and there were not sufficient cash reserves to support three hospices.

He said the cost of delivering care "was far higher than the total we've managed to raise".

"We're not hiding the devastating impact it will have," he said, particularly for the 20 to 30 families who regularly have day sessions at the Walsall centre.

Gemma Harris uses the service for her daughter Remi, who is severely disabled.

She said: "If it closes I'd lose my safety net. I've got no family or friends who know how to tube feed her at the moment.

"If I lose a place like Acorns I'm completely stuck and it means that me and my partner would never have a rest from Remi's needs.

"It makes me sick the fact that everything revolves around money and government funding - us parents with children with disabilities have to fight for everything and everything is based on money anyway for the most vulnerable in society.

"And knowing now that this charity is going that is an absolutely vital source for parents like us, it's just sickening."

Image caption The Acorns hospice in Walsall opened in 1999

Acorns opened its Walsall hospice in 1999. The charity said it cost £10m a year to run its three sites.

Current spending figures are still being audited, but a spokesman said it looked likely that the charity's 2018-19 spending would exceed income by £1.6m.

He added the charity had seen a drop in funds raised by its shops and from wills.

The shortfall would usually be met by charitable reserves but this figure reduced from £3.8m in 2018 to £2.2m at the end of March this year, and the charity trustees concluded they could not risk reserves falling further.

Tracey Bleakley, chief executive of Hospice UK, said costs were rising in general due to "increasing complexity of care", with hospices "operating in a very tough fundraising environment".

"Difficult conditions on the high street are also adversely affecting income from hospice shops," she added.

Image copyright Family handout
Image caption Isabella Lyttle, who had neuroblastoma, died in April

Mark Lyttle, whose daughter Isabella used the service before her death in April, said: "I describe the staff there as friends and family.

"They've held our hands and looked after us in some really dark times. The place is defined by love."

Follow BBC West Midlands on Facebook, on Twitter, and sign up for local news updates direct to your phone.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites