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Alexander Devine charity unfaltering in its service despite £470,000 losses

The CEO of the Alexander Devine Children’s Hospice Service says the charity needs to ‘work hard to get back to where we need to be’ following the coronavirus pandemic.

Although the charity has not wavered in supporting children with life-limiting and life-threatening conditions and their families during the pandemic, Fiona Devine says fundraising is ‘a massive issue’.

Since March, the charity, which Fiona established with her husband, John, in 2007, has suffered significant fundraising losses of over £470,000 due to cancelled events and activities.

It costs £1.6million a year just to maintain the current level of care the charity provides, and with the Government only contributing about four per cent of the costs, the rest comes from donations and fundraising.

“We’re very confident that we do provide a very good service and we will continue to do that, but it’s how we raise those funds,” said Fiona.

The Alexander Devine Children’s Hospice Service, which opened the Alexander Devine Hospice in Snowball Hill in 2018, supports children and families across Berkshire and the surrounding counties.

When lockdown was announced in March, the hospice duly closed and the charity concentrated its efforts on providing its outreach service.

“That hasn’t felt entirely different for us, because we have always been doing that,” said Fiona.

She says the charity’s focus during the height of the pandemic was ‘making sure that all families felt very supported, and that they knew that we were there if they needed us’.

This included opening the hospice for end of life care.

“That was something that we would have definitely have been able to provide,” she said.

On June 22 the charity reopened its hospice for day care and sessions in the hydro pool, giving families the opportunity to ‘enjoy real quality family time together’.

Fiona said: “Families can drop their children off if they so wish and go off and sleep for a few hours, just catch up on basic things that we all take for granted, or be there altogether as a family and just enjoy the environment.”

Fiona says data from a study published a few weeks ago, called Make Every Child Count by Professor Lorna Fraser, shows the charity’s service is needed more than ever.

Comparing studies carried out in 2011 and 2017, Professor Fraser found the number of children across Berkshire to have a life-limiting and life-threatening condition has increased by more than 110 per cent, from 653 to 1,370.

In Windsor, Maidenhead and Slough, numbers grew more than 150 per cent during this period and there are now more than 550 children with life-limiting and life-threatening conditions.

“Funding is a massive issue, because literally it did just dry up overnight,” said Fiona.

“So, as with many, many other charities, we had to look at things that we could reduce costs on.”

The charity went to its suppliers and said ‘can you help us’, wrote to supporters and donors, and published an open letter appeal which was ‘really successful’.

“We had a lovely, lovely response back from the community so we’re so grateful,” Fiona said.

“That makes you feel very humble and very grateful for our local community.”

Fiona explained that the charity will have to ‘do things in a different way’ to overcome the challenges it faces so that ‘the very important and vital work that’s needed’ can continue.

Fiona and John, from Windsor, set-up the Alexander Devine Children’s Hospice Service after they lost their son, Alexander, in 2006.

He had been diagnosed with a brain tumour around his fourth birthday and died at the age of eight.

“This service is here now that wasn’t there for him, and I know, in my absolute heart of hearts that every single thing that we do on a daily basis makes a difference to those children and their families, and that’s why it’s so important.”

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