Newlife plea for government

Newlife the Charity for Disabled Children has written to chancellor Rishi Sunak in an open letter to appeal for financial support after it says it was blocked from government funding allocated to help charities provide services throughout the pandemic.

According to the charity, it is continuing to operate its services to families with disabled and terminally ill children across the UK who are most at risk of the effects of COVID-19, despite all of its stores being closed.

On the 8th April, the chancellor announced a package of £750 million in funding to support charities which found themselves in-between a rock and a hard place as demand for services surged at the same time as revenues plummeted.

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The funding was praised as a welcome lifeline for many charities following the announcement but once the detail was released, many charities found themselves ineligible to access the financial support.

In the letter addressed to Rishi Sunak, Sheila Brown OBE, CEO and Co-founder of Newlife the Charity for Disabled Children, points out: “While initially buoyed by the announcement on the 8th April, we have now discovered that Newlife (despite supporting the NHS with home discharge equipment) does not qualify for any of the three charity specific government streams. We find ourselves in the difficult position of providing an essential “statutory service” to UK families, but not being a “commissioned service”.”

It comes as hospitals look to accelerate the discharge process of patients to free up beds.

“Hospitals and frontline professionals are turning to us to provide equipment for the children at highest risk of COVID-19 complications and we simply don’t have enough to help them,” she continues.

Operating the UK’s only free of charge emergency equipment loan service which provides vital specialist equipment from a suite of 360 beds, wheelchairs and hoists to families within 72 hours, Newlife has alerted that it has already run out of emergency loan beds and could soon run out of wheelchairs and hoists as well.

The charity says because there is a statutory duty to provide this equipment, it is also unable to apply to Children In Need or Comic Relief, or other aids mentioned by the chancellor, for funding.

“Despite losing our main retail income (forecasted to be £1.2m so far), cancelling fundraising events, suspending recycling operations and having to furlough 85% of our staff, we have, until now, be able to respond and support these children,” stresses Sheila in the letter.

“Today, Newlife is at risk of running out of equipment. Without an income, and having been excluded from government support, we are unable to buy any more specialist beds, wheelchairs and hoists.

“If Newlife does not find £1million, more children will be left on hospital wards, unable to shield from COVID-19.”

Emphasising the importance of the equipment provided to children and their families, Sheila explains that by enabling families to safely care for their children at home, children are shielded from the virus and frontline NHS and social care staff can be redeployed to support the national response, as well as increasing hospital bed capacity.

“Quite simply, precluding charities such as Newlife from applying for support will have a devastating impact on the most fragile children, those at greatest risk from COVID-19 complications, and their families during this pandemic,” she concludes.

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