EACH predicts 'difficult' £2m deficit as income slashed during Covid

An art therapy session at The Treehouse in Ipswich. PictureL ADRIAN CLARKE

East Anglia's Children's Hospices (EACH) has warned it faces an operational deficit of £2million this year - Credit: Archant

East Anglia's Children's Hospices (EACH) has revealed it is facing a £2milion deficit over the next year - after losing huge swathes of income from fundraising and charity shops.

The charity - which runs The Nook in Norfolk, The Treehouse in Ipswich and its hospice in Milton, near Cambridge - managed to recover a £1.7m deficit from the first coronavirus lockdown by cutting costs and reducing or redesigning some services.

East Anglias Childrens Hospices, The Nook in Framingham Earl. Picture: EACH

EACH's newest hospice at The Nook, in Norfolk - Credit: Archant

It also said the sheer generosity of the public had helped it through a time where it was forced to focus its services on the most important, end-of-life care and move many therapy services online.

EACH, which supports 600 children across its three hospices, is now moving out of its Milton High Street and Ipswich Ransomes Europark offices to save £120,000 in rent a year - with staff working from home and using space at its hospice sites and its Norfolk office, which are unaffected.

But chief executive Phil Gormley said that while he was "genuinely confident for the future of this charity", it would face huge challenges to plug the gap - having already made significant savings.

The former Norfolk police chief constable said while the crisis had caused problems for all charities, there is a "long, overdue debate" to be had about funding for palliative care in the long-term.

Balancing the books

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Mr Gormley, who took the helm at EACH in August, said: "A lot of people assume children's hospices are funded by the government or NHS.

"EACH only gets 16% of what we need from statutory services. We therefore need to raise significant amounts of money each year.

"We're much more vulnerable as an organisation to reductions in voluntary funding."

Usually, its network of charity shops will bring in £5m a year, while fundraising will bring in £6m a year.

However, the enforced closure of shops and inability for people to meet and hold fundraising events meant much of that income was lost in 2020.

Mr Gormley said: "After the first lockdown, the bounce back was really good .

"We were really surprised by the speed of which we were able to recover our position."

A government grant of approximately £1m helped the charity to weather the storm, while Mr Gormley said it had "really good support from corporate donors". It also put 120 staff on furlough.

Events such as Suffolk-based comedian Griff Rhys Jones' Celebrity Bottom Drawer auction of famous people's items - which raised £146,000 - helped, while the charity made a small number of redundancies and reduced other costs.

The EACH Treehouse in Ipswich.

The Treehouse is EACH's Ipswich hospice - Credit: Archant

What does the future hold?

However, with the third lockdown look set to continue into March at least, Mr Gormley said: "Every time we go through this, finding the money is harder."

Of leaving its Milton and Ipswich offices, he said: "Not renewing the leases was a fairly straightforward decision given the times we find ourselves in."

But the charity still loses £100,000 a week when its charity shops are closed, at a time when there has been a surge in day-to-day requests for support from families who have been shielding and become exhausted from providing care alone.

Mr Gormley said: "I'm doing everything I can to drive every single cost out."

However, he added: "I am completely confident we will be here for the foreseeable future.

"We do have reserves and have money saved for a rainy day - and this is a rainy day.

"People have been incredibly generous. The great strength of EACH is that it's held in great affection by the communities it operates in.

"It's difficult, but it's not terminal."

The Duchess of Cambridge pictured at the The Treehouse in Ipswich in 2012. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The Duchess of Cambridge visiting The Treehouse hospice in Ipswich in 2012

'Litmus test for our society'

Mr Gormley has written to all of the region's MPs to call for more funding for short break care.

"We have huge support from our communities and I'd never want to lose our flexibility to adapt to deliver new services."

However, he said there needed to be a national debate where children's hospices are "not so vulnerable to shifts in patterns of giving".

He added: "There is a real litmus test for our society in how do we treat the most vulnerable people at their point of acute need.

"This has exposed a frailty that we need to reflect on in terms of how do we put it right."

How to support EACH

There are plenty of ways to support EACH, including its EACH Mile Counts virtual event in February, challenging individuals and families to walk, run or cycle 100 miles over the course of the month.

Colchester MP Will Quince is hosting a virtual quiz for people in his constituency on Friday, January 29 to raise money for EACH, after highlighting its work ton chancellor Rishi Sunak.

Find out more about getting involved and the charity’s vital work by visiting www.each.org.uk