High time decision-makers rewarded incredible service

If you ever want some perspective; if you are ever having a terrible day at work or your football team has been beaten (again) or you just feel stuck in a rut – then simply log on to the internet and Google Treetops hospice.

Better still, take a drive or a walk down to Trentham Lakes and look for the place.

Nestling amid a modern housing estate is the children’s hospice which is home to the Donna Louise Trust (DLT).

The place itself is state-of-the-art, colourful and impressive – the staff warm and welcoming.

It feels more like a newly-refurbished youth club than a place where seriously-ill youngsters and their families receive care and support that is, quite simply, humbling to behold. Care and support which reminds us what life and love is all about.

A decade ago it didn’t exist. Yet now it is difficult to imagine North Staffordshire without this remarkable charity – in the same way that the Dougie Mac at Blurton has become a blessed part of the furniture locally.

Indeed, it is hard to believe we didn’t have a facility like Treetops on our doorstep long before this newspaper was approached in 1999 to begin publicising the fund-raising initiative to build the hospice.

I remember those early meetings and how eagerly both Sentinel journalists and our readers embraced the concept.

To get it up and running so quickly was testament to the generosity of spirit which sets the people of the Potteries apart.

Now here we are, 10 years on, and the DLT, which provides care and support for children who have life-limiting illnesses and their families, is struggling.

Its latest fund-raising drive, the Save Our Services (SOS) campaign, is an attempt to raise £300,000 to prevent further cutbacks during the current recession.

This appeal continues despite last month’s announcement that the Government is spending an additional £30 million on so-called palliative care across England.

At first glance this seems like wonderful news for children’s hospices up and down the country.

However, there is no guarantee that this extra money will find its way into the coffers at the DLT.

Whether or not Treetops receives additional money is entirely at the discretion of local Primary Care Trusts (PCTs), who will decide how best to deliver care to children with shortened lives.

At present, the level of funding the DLT receives from the PCTs locally varies depending on the worth each attaches to the hospice when they review its performance annually.

For the record, it costs around £2 million each year to run Treetops. At the moment 85 per cent of this funding comes from charitable donations with only 15 per cent provided as statutory funding.

In contrast, hospices for adults receive, on average, 31 per cent of their funding from Whitehall. Why the disparity? Your guess is as good as mine.

The fact is, many of us tend to take charities for granted.

It is only when we ourselves, or our relatives and friends, have reason to call upon their expertise that their true value becomes apparent to us.

We rely on the likes of the DLT and the Dougie Mac to provide essential care at crucial stages in the lives of our loved ones.

The scandal is that these incredible organisations have to rely so heavily on public goodwill.

Let us simply hope that the decision-makers at the PCTs recognise the true value of the DLT and the quality of the service it provides when slicing up the pie.

If they don’t, and they need some perspective, I suggest they pay a visit to Treetops.

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