Robin Swann reinstates funding to Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice
By David Young, PA
Stormont’s Health Minister has reinstated £85,000 (€100,000) of funding to the Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice but has acknowledged it will not be enough to prevent the announced reduction in some services at the facility.
This week the hospice said it was having to cut a number of bed places due to a bleak financial outlook.
It cited a loss of state funding and other challenges presented by the cost-of-living crisis.
The hospice, which is located in north Belfast, provides specialist palliative care for more than 350 babies, children and their families every year.
Robin Swann had asked officials to look “urgently” at the planned bed cuts to determine the best way forward.
On Friday night he said a funding cut that would have seen the hospice lose £85,000 of support from his department this year would be reinstated.
He said that funding had been part of a £170,000 temporary support payment, which is provided in addition to the £1.6 million in core annual funding given to the hospice by the Department of Health.
The minister also announced changes to how the core funding is structured going forward.
He said the £1.6 million currently includes £420,000 that is non-recurring money and which requires annual approval.
Mr Swann said that the £420,000 would be recurring from now on – a move he said would provide “greater certainty” for the hospice.
The minister conceded that the “financial challenges” facing the hospice “go much deeper” than the actions he had announced.
He said there was a need for input from other Stormont departments to identify longer-term solutions.
Mr Swann has written to Finance Minister Caoimhe Archibald about the issue.
“Like all healthcare providers, it has encountered significantly rising running costs, reflecting inflationary pressures,” he said of the children’s hospice.
“Regrettably, the NICH has advised my department that the restoration of the full £170,000 for this year will not lead to the reversal of the service reduction made public this week.
“The NICH and NI Hospice parent body will need to develop longer-term solutions, to which I am sure Government will want to be supportive.
“Given the current absence of a budget for next year, and the well-documented financial uncertainties and challenges for Government, my department is at the limit of what it can do right now.
“I am also very conscious that other hospice organisations, and many other health and care providers, are also grappling with growing budget pressures and will be seeking further statutory finance.
“I welcome the support and personal interest of the First Minister (Michelle O’Neill) and deputy First Minister (Emma Little-Pengelly) in relation to NICH’s position. I am also aware of the fact that other Northern Ireland departments have provided financial support to NICH in the past.
“I believe the long-term need for financial stability across the hospice sector would benefit from cross-departmental input, helping to assist organisations in identifying sustainable ways forward.
“Consequently, I have today written to the Finance Minister to seek further discussions between the charities and our two departments.”