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Acorns children's hospice closure halted as £2 million funding appeal launched

The closure of Acorns children's hospice in Walsall has been suspended - as charity bosses launched an appeal to raise £2 million to save it.

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Acorns Hospice in Walsall has been handed a boost

Hopes of the hospice staying open permanently have today been given a huge boost after Acorns announced initial support they had received meant they could keep running until next April.

But the race is now on to raise £2 million to ensure the hospice can remain open beyond that point.

NHS funding for children's hospices is set to double to £25 million by 2023/24 but Acorns must plug the gap until then if the centre on Walstead Road is to survive.

The charity, which supports 230 families and also has hospices in Birmingham and Worcester, is hopeful the generosity shown in the form of various fundraising events across the Black Country since its funding black hole was first revealed will now be replicated on a larger scale.

The groundswell of support from the public and crucial extra funding from health bodies has provided much-needed breathing space for the charity, which had been due to close its cherished Walsall base in October.

The suspension of the closure has resulted in around 60 jobs being saved and it means bosses can focus their attention on trying to drum up as much support as possible.

Acorns said if the £2 million target is reached "it will lead to the closure proposal being completely withdrawn". All money raised will be spent on delivering care for children and families at the Walsall hospice, the charity said.

Acorns chief executive Toby Porter

Acorns chief executive Toby Porter said: “We are deeply grateful for the new pledges of NHS support nationally and locally, and for the recognition they convey of the importance of Acorns children’s hospice care to local children and families.

“These pledges have created a lifeline for our vital services in the Black Country. We will now do all we can to raise the final funds we need to secure the hospice’s longer-term future by appealing to the local community for their support.”

Acorns dropped a bombshell in June when it announced rising costs and falling donations meant it had been left with no option but to close the Walsall hospice.

Officials have since been overwhelmed by the level of support, both in terms of cash donations and pressure on the Government to unlock extra funding for children's hospices.

The funding breakthrough followed intensive campaigning by families of children cared for at hospice, including a visit to Westminster by Mark Lyttle, the father of 11-year-old Isabella, who lost her brave battle with cancer in April.

Mr Lyttle delivered a passionate address to Black Country MPs and the director from NHS England responsible for children’s hospice funding.

Isabella Lyttle with her father Mark Lyttle

It was then announced funding for hospices would rise from £12m to £25m by 2023/24 but Acorns must now find money to secure its immediate future.

Mr Porter said: “On behalf of everyone at Acorns, I would like to say a heartfelt thanks to the families, the local community and their elected representatives, and NHS commissioners who have shown such appreciation for the invaluable children’s hospice care provided by our team at Walsall, and such passion for it to be available to the families that need it in the future.

“We have been truly humbled and hugely encouraged by the recognition of the importance that our Walsall children’s hospice has to the Black Country community.

“A charity like Acorns can only operate with the support of the local community – who we now need more than ever to help us continue providing our vital care to any child or family in the region that needs us.”

Wolverhampton South East MP Pat McFadden welcomed the announcement calling it 'great news'.

He tweeted: "Acorns Hospice in Walsall serves the whole Black Country. There is strong cross party support for saving it.

"But the battle is not over yet - keeping it open until next year is great but now we need to secure its future for the long term."