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Children's hospice shock over £600k energy bill

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A charity running a children's hospice has said facing a £600k energy bill is a challenge "worse than the pandemic".

Bills for Ty Hafan, which has a hospice in Sully, Vale of Glamorgan, are set to rise from £100k a year.

The charity said it came as donations had fallen and the number of children needing help had increased.

The Welsh government said it had boosted its annual hospice budget by £2.2m.

While the UK government said it had "stood right behind" charities during the cost of living crisis.

Ty Hafan boss Maria Timon Samra said she was having sleepless nights over the cost, which was worse than the challenge they faced during the pandemic.

Donations to the charity have dropped by 50% year-on-year because of the cost of living crisis, with Ms Samara saying many who had supported them for years had cancelled their direct debits.

"We know they don't want to do this, because they are telling us so, but they're having to make this choice because they simply cannot afford to give to us right now because their own energy costs are so high, plus the rise in the cost of living generally," she said.

The hospice provides support to 300 children with life-limiting conditions and their families, and relies on public support for 80% of its income.

People using the hospice have described it as a lifeline to help them cope and lead as close to a normal family life as possible. They have supported calls for government help.

Jayde Adams, 30, from Creigiau near Cardiff, brings her three-year-old daughter Savanah-Bleu to the centre.

Savanah-Bleu has Leukodystrophy disease, which affects the frontal lobe of her brain, and requires the use of a feeding pump and sensory lights at home, which both require electricity.

"It is hard enough for us, so I cannot even imagine the worry for them [Ty Hafan]," Ms Adams said.

"There are a lot of children who come here on a daily basis who are on oxygen, ventilation, suction machines and you use a lot of electricity for that."

"To have to worry whether you can afford to pay for that, or waiting for things to go up is not fair on places like this. They need a lot more help than they are getting now," added Ms Adams.

"If I didn't have places like this, we wouldn't have the help and support we need, or have somewhere to come and relax and actually be a family. We'd be lost without them.

"At the end of the day they are helping us, so they need help with the electricity."

Tŷ Hafan's annual energy bill for its 10-bed hospice and 19 charity shops around south, mid and west Wales is currently £100,000 per annum.

The contract ends in September.

The charity said it had been quoted a minimum of £460,000 per annum for a new three-year energy contract or £600,000 for a new one-year deal.

Ms Samra explained why they faced a more difficult situation than during the worst days of the Covid pandemic.

"We were looking forward to coming out... but this is probably worse than the pandemic on the face of it, but we have got to be there, we have got to keep going," she said.

"During the Covid crisis we had government support, we had furlough, we had Covid funding but that is now over.

"We had managed to keep all our services open throughout and we were optimistic that things would get better for everybody," she added.

"But this is a lot worse for us because we cannot see how we navigate our way out.

Ty Hafan says its care costs have also gone up from £4.8m a year to £5.3m, partly because of the increase in National Insurance contributions.

However, they have stressed that there is no threat of closure and that they will find a way to make things work.

Ms Samra has called on the UK government to introduce a "reasonable" price cap, adding that the charity is unable to put its prices up because its services are free for children and their families.

She also called on the Welsh government to extend and uplift its lifeline fund to enable them to recruit and retain staff and pay for their specialist training.

A UK government plan to help with the cost of energy bills is due to be announced on Thursday, but there is little detail on what might be available for charities.

As things stand businesses and charities are not covered by a price cap, which applies to domestic customers and limits the amount suppliers can charge them per unit of energy.

The Welsh government said it had reviewed hospice funding and committed to giving them an extra £2.2m a year funding.

"We are working with Ty Hafan and other hospices to help them deal with the cost of living crisis," a Welsh government spokesperson said, but called on the UK government to take action "now" to tackle costs ahead of winter.

In response the UK government said:"No national government can control the global factors pushing up the price of energy, but we will continue to support businesses in navigating the months ahead.

"This includes reducing employer national insurance by increasing the employment allowance, slashing fuel duty, introducing a 50% business rates relief and putting the brakes on bill increases by freezing the business rates multiplier - worth £4.6 billion over the next five years."

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