Sue Ryder Wheatfields Hospice warns situation is becoming "unsustainable" as it struggles to fill £2m funding shortfall

A national charity, which has a hospice in Leeds, has launched a second lockdown fundraising campaign as it struggles to fill a £2m shortfall.

Monday, 16th November 2020, 4:45 pm

Sue Ryder, which was founded in Leeds in 1953 and manages the Wheatfields Hospice at Headingley, has issued the urgent appeal for donations as it warns the lack of money coming in against the increasing demand for its services is going to become "unsustainable".

The campaign is called "We Can't Stop It" and comes as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic means that fundraising activities and events have had to stop and the second lockdown has seen charity shops forced to close again.

Hospice director Elaine Hill for Wheatfields said that while a government bail out earlier this year was welcomed, it only lasted until the end of June and the need for the public to help as the organisation heads into winter is urgent.

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The Wheatfields Hospice at Headingley.

She said: "Coronavirus has hit us hard. We received a wonderful response from our supporters to our emergency appeal earlier in the year. This, paired with the emergency funding that we received from the government, covered our funding shortfall until the end of June 2020.

“Unfortunately however, our struggle continues. Our fundraising events remain cancelled for the rest of this year and our high street shops have now closed for a second time.

“As we head into the winter months and coronavirus cases continue to rise we are expecting an increase in people needing end of life care. None of us expected this pandemic to go on for so long and clearly a monthly shortfall of £2m is unsustainable for any charity, which is why we need to ask the public to help us.

“Wheatfields is playing a vital part in the Coronavirus effort – all of the staff here want to use their skills, expertise and experience to help patients and their families in the months ahead as well continue to relieve the pressure on the NHS. However, in order to keep our services running through the winter and beyond we urgently need to secure more funding now.

“We know that times are tough for everybody at the moment, so please be reassured that every bit really does help and thank you very much from all of us.”

In April the hospice issued an appeal for funding help and donations and Ms Hill said there had been a "wonderful" response. However, by July the hospice was £1.1m below where it needed to be financially and that has increased by £1m in just a few months.

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“Hospices have benefited from financial support offered by HMT to all charities, which includes paying no business rates for their shops next year and applying for a Business Interruption Loan. Charities, alongside other sectors, can also access the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, and charity shops will benefit from the new enhanced retail rate relief at 100 per cent. We continue to work closely with hospices to support their essential work.”

St Gemma's Hospice said it was also missing the much needed income it generates from fundraising events and its charity shops. A spokesperson said all 24 shops across the city are closed for the second lockdown and would usually be generating around £50,000 per week.

The organisation is currently tapping into savings and reserves to keep going but added that thanks to the generosity of the Leeds public and having seen an increase in donations from current patients and families, donations in-memory of loved ones and ‘out of the blue’ donations none of its services are currently under threat.

Kerry Jackson, Chief Executive of St Gemma’s Hospice, said: “Like many other organisations, St Gemma’s Hospice has also had a very challenging year managing the impact of coronavirus on our vital work and our ability to raise the funds needed. We have had to change the way we provide care and support to patients and their families. And many of our usual sources of income have been massively impacted.

"As a local, totally independent and vital charity in Leeds, we always have to plan for unprecedented circumstances to ensure sustainability at times of crisis like this. So right now, are beginning to use our reserves, or savings, to make up shortfalls in income. And the team are working hard to transform the ways we raise money, not just now, but into the future. It isn’t easy and we are certainly in uncharted territory and face many more challenges and difficult decisions.

"But thanks to our amazing supporters and the generosity of the people of Leeds, none of our services are currently at risk of closure. The community has supported our vital work for the last 42 years, and now is no exception. We will work together to get through these difficult times and St Gemma’s will come out stronger on the other side ready to tackle whatever the future brings. Our motto is Always Caring, and that is what we are continuing to do.”

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