Yorkshire charities in VAT rise warning

Charities are warning that terminally ill and vulnerable people are set to suffer as a result of the Government's decision to increase VAT to 20 per cent at the beginning of this month.

A new campaign is calling on the Government to cut the red tape for the voluntary sector which bars charities from VAT exemptions and currently costs them 1billion nationally every year.

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Sue Ryder Care, which runs six hospices including the Wheatfields in Leeds, claims Chancellor George Osborne's 2.5 per cent increase is likely to cost them 1million and charities as a whole a further 145 million this year

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The charity for the elderly and vulnerable, which also provides home palliative and community-based care in Leeds, is now calling on the

Government to bring voluntary sector healthcare providers into line with the NHS and other public sector bodies.

Samantha Cheverton, manager at Wheatfields Hospice, said: "We have heard a lot about the Big Society and support the idea of charities delivering more high-quality public services.

"However, this is only possible if we are afforded the same benefits the NHS and local authorities are given relating to VAT.

"Limited Companies, local authorities and some parts of the NHS can reclaim it yet our hospices, care centres and homecare services are

left to swallow this burden.

"In this tough economic climate the rise will hit charities like Sue

Ryder even harder.

"1 million is just a figure to some. But when we see the figure we don't just think of the money, we think of the care.

"With 1million a year we could provide 50,000 hours of in-patient care at Wheatfields Hospice.

"The benefit of Sue Ryder's services to individuals, families and communities is not quantifiable. It's priceless."

The Sue Ryder campaign will continue throughout January with national lobbying of MPs, local politicians, voluntary sector and other community groups.

It has already won the backing of other local charities in Yorkshire.

Staff at St Gemma's Hospice in Leeds, which cares for over 1,000 people every year, say the additional VAT rise will cost them at least 30,000 on top of an existing VAT bill of 125,000.

The hospice's director of business, Tracy Dick, said: "This Government is always talking about the Big Society. Well, what could be more Big Society than a hospice which is supported by local members of the community and volunteer donations.

"This year we are refurbishing our patient rooms and the rise will cost us about 30,000. That's around 3,000 volunteer hours.

"So if the Government means what it says, they should be helping us, not making things harder."

* Further information about the campaign is available at: www.suerydercare.org