Urgent plea for public support as hospice struggles in pandemic

"We didn't come to the public earlier this year. We are coming to them now because we need to in order to sustain our services."

Bosses at Katharine House Hospice have been left with no other option but to turn to the public for emergency support in an attempt to avoid becoming the latest victim of coronavirus.

Katharine House bosses dropped the bombshell last week that they need to raise £1 million by January to allow them to bring in a new, more sustainable business model from next April, with four of its charity shops to close.

Many charities have been left fighting to survive, with the Covid-19 pandemic cutting off much of the fundraising revenue stream they so badly rely on. Major summer events which are the lifeblood of charities were cancelled across the board, denying them crucial funding.

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Charity shops – another key revenue stream – have been hit hard, as customer numbers have plummeted during the pandemic. This has been particularly damaging for Stafford-based Katharine House, which is heavily reliant on its 21 shops.

They have struggled to make money since lockdown and four of the least profitable are to be axed in an attempt to save cash. Jobs at those shops are most likely to go but it is hoped further redundancies will be avoided.

Government support delivered at the height of the pandemic has ended and is not expected to resume, leaving the charity with no alternative but to turn to the public.

The £1 million target in four months is undoubtedly an ambitious target. Acorns children's hospice in Walsall, which is facing its own battle for survival, took more than a year to close in on that figure, but there are early promising signs after £50,000 was raised in the first few days of the appeal.

If the target is not reached by January, it is unlikely to mean the immediate closure of the hospice, which supported 1,300 people with progressive illnesses last year.

But it will be key to keeping the wolves from the door and delivering much-needed breathing space for a viable plan for the future to be put together.

Katherine House Hospice chief executive Richard Soulsby

Chief executive Richard Soulsby admitted a failure to reach the target would likely mean a reduction in services Katharine House would be able to provide.

Mr Soulsby said the public's support now was more crucial than ever.

He told the Express & Star: "In April we could plan for financial balance with the Government support through to the end of July. During June we started to reopen our shops which are our largest source of income.

"The biggest issue we have got is retail income is significantly down on this time last year. We are effectively losing £30,000 a week on retail revenue and £10,000 a week on fundraising income. That's not sustainable. We need to plan how we can create a viable hospice for the future."

Katharine House shops are responsible for around 35 per cent of the charity's income, with fundraising bringing in 25 per cent and NHS funding is responsible for around 28 per cent.

Mr Soulsby delivered a sobering assessment of where the hospice currently stands.

Accelerate

"The hospice needs to make around £1.2m of savings. We plan to grow retail and fundraising revenue and reduce operating costs," he said.

The chief executive said the £1 million would give the hospice time to get from where it is now to where it needs to be in the future.

He added: "If we don't get there we will accelerate the savings we have to make. It will reduce the time we have to plan. We will have to inform patients which services will be changing. It will effectively truncate the timescale.

"It will result in some services not being available for patients that were available pre-Covid."

Mr Souslby, who has been based at Katharine House for more than 20 years, said the charity had always been grateful for the support it receives in Staffordshire and urged people to redouble their efforts at this time of crisis.

He said: "When we opened the inpatient unit in 2000 the financial position was just as difficult as it is today, yet we have been a sustainable service for two decades.

"That's why we're appealing now to give us more time to transition to a new future. That's why we need the community to get behind us."

Mr Soulsby continued: "I am very confident the community will redouble its efforts and support Katharine House. We have already got £50,000 on the Just Giving page.

"We know a lot of people are planning how they are going to support us, either as individuals or a group. We need that support to come through."

To donate visit justgiving.com/campaign/savekhhospice or log on to khhospice.org.uk and click the link

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