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Mr. Watts: I think that my hon. Friend would agree that his constituency bears many similarities to mine. We have a very high proportion of people with all sorts of illnesses caused by the area's industrial past of coal, chemicals and so on. Does not that place on those social services departments a much higher burden than many others have to bear, which means that there are fewer resources for these facilities?

Jeff Ennis: My hon. Friend is absolutely right; he makes a valuable point. Indeed, my constituency has the highest level of disability of any constituency in the UK, including Northern Ireland—there is at least one disabled person in every three households. That is a legacy of the former mining industry.

Mr. Alan Meale (Mansfield) (Lab): I congratulate my hon. Friend on choosing such a fine subject. There used to be the same approach to mental health when hospitals were closed down and people were dispatched back to communities. Neither the health service, nor
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social services, nor even local authority housing departments would pick up the costs. People give their voluntary support to try to keep hospices going, but they are slipping through the funding net. We must get our funding criteria right to ensure that these fine organisations and institutions are properly funded for the future.

Jeff Ennis: I entirely concur with my hon. Friend. I will deal with possible solutions to the problem when I conclude my remarks.

David Taylor: Like my hon. Friend, I have raised the financial plight of hospices from time to time during this Parliament. Does he agree that one of the reasons why successive Governments, and our own, have been generous to social services in local government and elsewhere, but have not responded to the plight of children's hospices, is that hospices are able to tap the goodwill and generosity of the British people because of the quality of their cause? In the third millennium, we should not be looking to cake stalls, charity shops and raffles to fund something that is as central to the needs of thousands of children.

Jeff Ennis: I completely agree with my hon. Friend. Again, I shall say more about that later.

The final letter from South Yorkshire authorities is from Sheffield's director of services. It reads:

We can see from the four responses that I have received from my local authorities that the picture is somewhat different from the national picture that the Minister portrayed to me.

Dr. Ladyman: Let me take the opportunity to put the record straight. I imagine that what I was trying to explain to my hon. Friend was that social services make a bigger contribution to the palliative care of children than to that of adults. However, as I will point out in my speech, most of the palliative care of children takes place not in hospices, but at home. If he went back to those directors of social services and asked them how much money they are spending on families caring for children at home, I suspect that he would find that it is a substantial amount.

Jeff Ennis: I fully accept the Minister's point. I believe that wherever possible the care and treatment of terminally ill children should be in their home, but that is not always possible because of some children's health needs and requirements, and that is when the hospice has to come into play.

I accept that South Yorkshire is probably not a particularly good example for me to use, because we do not currently have a children's hospice. The nearest hospices serving south Yorkshire are the Martin House hospice for children in Boston Spa, west Yorkshire, and the Rainbows children's hospice in Loughborough, Leicestershire, to which my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Leicestershire (David Taylor) referred
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earlier. In the near future, however, all that will change, with the long overdue opening of the Bluebell Wood children's hospice in Dinnington, Rotherham.

When that hospice opens it will serve a population of 1.2 million in the south Yorkshire and north midlands regions. Research carried out by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health estimates that there are 10.6 million children in England aged under 17, about 1,060 of whom are so ill that they are likely to die within a year; 10,600 of them suffer from a life-limiting condition. Half will need active palliative care at any one time, which is the point the Minister made earlier. In south Yorkshire, there are about 300 such children and their families.

Bluebell Wood hospice estimates that it will receive about 4.17 per cent. of its revenue costs from the NHS. Those costs are currently estimated at £1.8 million a year for eight beds. That compares with the 5.9 per cent. received by the Rainbows hospice of its £1.6 million revenue costs for eight beds, and the 7 per cent. received by Martin House of its £2.6 million revenue costs for 15 beds.

The Minister will be aware that the Bluebell Wood project has taken some years to come to fruition and, unfortunately, it will be a few more years before it is complete. However, some milestones have been reached recently. In August 2004, planning permission was granted for the Dinnington site, and I am pleased to say that BBC Radio Sheffield met its target to raise £400,000 for the hospice. I pass on my praise and thanks to the listeners for raising that amount. In December 2004, after four years of committed fund-raising throughout the region and extremely generous giving from all the communities of south Yorkshire, the Bluebell Wood hospice reached its £3 million funding target.

Quantity surveyors and structural engineers were appointed this month and work will soon begin on the site. A head of care will take up her duties in June. Part of her role will be to forge links with local primary care trusts in relation to funding. There is a caveat, however. Bluebell Wood has been informed by several PCTs in the area that they will have no funding available for the hospice.

That is the local position. I turn to the national picture. Children's hospices in England receive an average of just over 5 per cent. of their funding from statutory sources, mainly in one-off grants. Funding for children's hospices is inequitable and varies greatly from one area to another. There is no central guidance on the amount of primary care trust or local authority contributions. In the absence of any central guidance, co-ordination or direction, children's hospices constantly chase after much needed local authority funding with no guarantee of success, because no children's hospice service liaises with just one PCT. All those services have to deal with several PCTs, whereas the adult hospice in Barnsley, which receives a generous allowance from the NHS, deals with only one PCT. In Doncaster, the adult hospice—which also gets a very generous allocation—has to deal with three primary care trusts. Because children's hospices operate on a sub-regional basis, they have to negotiate with up to 27 PCTs.
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Mr. David Drew (Stroud) (Lab/Co-op): I am sorry that I missed the early part of my hon. Friend's speech, but I completely concur with what he is saying. Would he accept that the problems are added to by the fact that the hospice movement, by its very nature, tends to draw most of its funds from local sources? Children's hospices have to draw their funds from a much larger area, and turf wars can develop out there. This means that they can lose out quite badly if they are perceived to be encroaching on local adult hospices' areas. That leads to quite an unpleasant situation, and can add to the problems related to funding from PCTs.

Jeff Ennis: My hon. Friend makes a very telling point. As a former trustee of the Barnsley St. Peter's hospice, I know how much hard work is done by volunteers and in the local charity shops to raise funds. Because the children's hospices do not draw on such confined areas for funds, however, the tensions that my hon. Friend mentions can arise, as I am sure the Minister will recognise.

The fact that children's hospices sometimes have to deal with up to 27 PCTs means that some of them will have to make up to 27 rounds of introductions and engage in up to 27 sets of negotiations, which could result in 27 quite different outcomes. These activities consume valuable resources, as they often have to be led by the most senior members of staff in the hospice. There is no framework to the funding maze, and no guidelines for PCTs and local authorities in regard to the allocation of resources.

David Taylor: That is a most important point in regard to simplifying the funding arrangements. Does my hon. Friend agree that there are at least two options available? One would involve strategic health authorities, which are responsible for larger populations. Alternatively, when a specialist service is involved, many groups of PCTs nominate a lead PCT within the area to conduct negotiations on service planning and finance. Would it not be possible to choose one of those options?

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