17-year old Marley receives a home visit from Julia’s House nurse, Natalie
Isolation, loneliness, worry – these are uncertain times for everyone, with the coronavirus situation changing so rapidly. For families of extremely vulnerable children, like those supported by Dorset and Wiltshire’s children’s hospices, Julia’s House, this uncertainty and anxiety is even more acute.
Throughout the coronavirus crisis, Julia’s House has been able to continue caring for the most vulnerable children and families in the local community, visiting families’ homes within the strict additional infection control measures put in place by the government. Some of the families went into lockdown a few weeks prior to the rest of the UK in order to ‘shield’ their children from COVID- 19, for whom even a common cold can mean hospitalisation.
Ali Acaster, director of care at Julia’s House said, “We have been determined to keep our care service going for as long as we possibly can. It’s not been easy but we know our families need us more than ever during the COVID-19 crisis. There is often no break or relief apart from the support and care they receive from us. We’ve very much been adapting our service to their needs so making visits to families’ homes and using video calls to stay in touch, as well as collecting prescriptions and essential medical supplies.
“Most of us might be returning to a new normal in a few months time but for our families the fear and isolation will continue as they seek to protect their highly vulnerable children and we want to ensure we are there for them during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.”
Julia’s House is in advanced discussions with the NHS to support local health services wherever possible. As well as continuing care for vulnerable children and families in their homes to reduce pressure on the NHS, some of the Julia’s House nurses may work in NHS hospitals as well as provide additional care to children overnight to free up NHS staff and resources. Even the Julia’s House van drivers are helping to transport local medicines and supplies.
All Julia’s House shops are closed for the foreseeable future, fundraising events are postponed or cancelled and supporters and friends groups are unable to run community fundraising activities and events. The pandemic has hit the charity’s finances hard, with two thirds of its income streams halted – it is a devastating situation and a very challenging future.
“We have been busy lobbying the government with Hospice UK for relief funding,” said Martin Edwards, Julia’s House CEO. “This is on the basis that hospices are critical to saving the NHS resources, time and money, and therefore are needed now more than ever to reduce the strain and pressure on our local health services. We are still waiting to hear the outcome of these discussions but we are hopeful that a relief funding package for hospices will be announced very soon. This funding will be an important step towards reducing our income loss this year which we have estimated to be £2.8 million, which is a huge financial blow to us and the care and support we provide to local families.”
Along with many other organisations and businesses, Julia’s House has had to furlough 40 per cent of its staff, although how long it will take to recoup this money from the government is yet to be confirmed. It remains a very uncertain time for the charity, particularly as any anticipated recovery in the economy will be gradual rather than swift.
Martin Edwards adds, “Everyone who touches Julia’s House has a very special combination of resourcefulness, commitment and compassion, which we are seeing demonstrated in so many ways at present from our nurses and carers through to our volunteers and supporters. We are so grateful for everyone’s help in these uncertain times and we do need that support to continue, so we can carry on providing a much needed lifeline to the most vulnerable children and families in our community.”
To donate to Julia’s House go to: juliashouse.org/COVID-19
Editor’s note: On 8 April the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced a £750m package to help struggling charities. Measures will involve cash grants. £360m will be directly allocated by government departments to charities providing key services during the crisis. £370m will go to small, local charities, including those delivering food and essential medicines and providing financial advice.
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