Willow Burn explains why it had to make staff redundant.
Derwentside’s Willow Burn Hospice has responded to criticism after a number of staff were made redundant, including members of its fundraising team.
The charity has explained that while it received a £1.5m donation made last year, the cash can only be used to build a new six-bed in-patient hospice unit.
Board Chairman, Paul Jackson said: “We’ve recently had to make the very sad and difficult decision to make some of our people redundant.
“We appreciate that it can be hard to understand why we’ve done that, so we wanted to make sure everyone understands the position we are in.”
The last three years have been highly successful for the hospice, which pulled back from a deficit of £350,000 to a surplus of £33,000 last year.
The charity received a further boost when philanthropist Helen McArdle donated £1.5m for the new building, which is currently under construction.
Paul says there is still a long way to go before Willow Burn, which cared for 140 in-patients last year, is in a sustainable financial position.
“The hospice costs around £1.5m a year to run – as well as the in-patient unit, our health and wellbeing centre saw 1,200 people attend appointments last year and our family support and bereavement service has helped around 290 people,” he said.
“We get a third of our funding from the NHS, which leaves us with £1m to find from fundraising each year.”
“Our fundraising team has worked tremendously hard organising events, but it has actually been increasingly difficult for them even to raise enough money to pay for their own salaries.”
Even though the financial position has improved, a downturn this year has created a challenging environment in which to continue this trend. The hospice needs to move into a position where it has a surplus in the bank to cover any future shortfalls in income.
“A better cashflow situation is crucial, because we have to keep on paying the bills – so many people in difficult and traumatic situations depend upon us,” said Paul.
“That means we need to move towards a different type of income generation that creates a sustainable funding source – for instance, encouraging regular givers and working with corporates, and we’re going to get expert advice on our strategy.”
In the short term, the hospice – which has seen a fall in income from fundraising this year – believes the generous donation from Helen McArdle may have confused many kindhearted donors.
“We feel some people may be thinking, well, they’ve got plenty of money now,” said Paul.
“But that money is capital investment and must be used for the new building – we can’t divert any of it towards paying nurses’ salaries.
“It means we need to go on fundraising as hard as ever and relying on the amazing generosity of people in the area, who support us so enthusiastically and whole-heartedly.”
Paul paid tribute to the former staff, and wished them all well.
“I know a few words can’t possibly make up for the trauma of losing your job, and it was a very uncomfortable decision to have to make about our colleagues, because we are a close-knit team,” he said.
“However, it’s so important that Willow Burn Hospice is able to maintain and grow its service for the people of Derwentside, so we’re there when they need us.
“We hope for everyone’s understanding and continued support for the work the hospice does.”