London children’s hospice faces energy bill increase of £140,000
London and Surrey children’s hospice may have to reduce the number of respite care beds available for dying children as it faces a £140,000 energy bill hike in April.
From April 1, the Government’s energy support scheme for businesses, including hospices, will end and they instead will be eligible to receive a smaller discount under the new Energy Bill Discount Scheme.
Shooting Star Children’s Hospices is calling for extra support so it can keep providing 24/7 care for children with life-limiting conditions. Its energy bill is set to more than double from £90,000 to £230,000 by the end of September.
The hospice offers respite care for children likely to die within the next few months at its hospice near Guildford, as well as a range of therapies and specialist clinics for affected families at a Hampton-based facility.
It costs around £10 million a year to run both sites, including providing oxygen machines and heating. Just 30 per cent is covered by Government funding.
Chief executive Paul Farthing told the Standard: “We couldn’t afford to employ more nurses because we’re having to pay for energy.
“That’s hundreds of nights of respite care that we can’t offer to families.”
Mr Farthing said the charity will also have to dip into its fundraising fund to cover the increased energy bill.
“It would mean we couldn’t offer as much counselling support for families who have lost a child, those are the things that are at risk.”
Uncertainty for parents
A father whose seven-year-old son, Albie, has benefited from Shooting Star’s care for years, said a possible scaling back of services to cover energy costs leaves parents with uncertainty.
“Is our safe space, safe?” Dan Burton told the Standard.
“Now we’re questioning..are they able to have us? That sort of doubt is quite scary.”
Mr Burton said Albie has received care with Shooting Star since he was a toddler for Costello syndrome, a rare genetic mutation, and cardiomyopathy and adrenal insufficiency.
Mr Burton said he was shocked to learn that hospices across the UK will not be receiving more energy bill support than other businesses.
“It’s not a luxury, it’s an actual need. For me, this is as important as the local hospital. When we need it, we need it. There is no other option, no family to step in…there is no one.
“You just presume that that service will be there and they’ll be supported.”
Pressure has been mounting for Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to extend the Energy Bills Relief Scheme as part of his Spring Budget announcement on March 15.
Liberal Democrat MP for Richmond Park, Sarah Olney, said the energy bill increase for Shooting Star Children’s Hopsices was “absolutely heartbreaking”.
“Shooting Star Hospices have always ensured that children and families in Southwest London have had access to excellent hospice care if and when they need it.
“For too long, the Government has left our hospices, hospitals and care homes in limbo, refusing to extend their energy support and give them the financial security they so desperately need.”
Ms Olney urged the Chancellor to extend the current relief scheme.
The Government has confirmed support for hospices under the Energy Bill Relief Scheme will end on March 31.
The new Energy Bill Discount Scheme will run from April 1 until March 2024 and will continue to “provide a discount on energy to eligible non-domestic customers including hospices”, Minister of State for Energy Security and Net Zero Graham Stuart said in response to a Parliamentary Question.
The new scheme is available to businesses, charities, and public sector organisations such as schools, hospitals and care homes.
Minister for Social Care Helen Whately said in addition to the new scheme, the NHS has released £1.5 billion in additional funding to integrated care boards.
The boards then decide “how best to distribute this funding within their system, including to palliative and end of life care providers such as hospices”, she said.
For all non-domestic energy users the government supported price has been set at £211 per megawatt hour (MWh) / 21.1p per kilowatt hour (KWh) for electricity and £75 per MWh / 7.5p per KWh for gas.