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Care for terminally ill children costing nine times less with charity

VITAL home care help for terminally ill children costs nine times less with a leading children's charity than nursing care from country's hospitals.

The Jack and Jill Children's Foundation charity says the average sick child's annual costs is €16,422 through Jack & Jill homecare, while hospital costs are €147,365.

An independent report published by Trinity College's Centre for Health Policy and Management detailed the alarming disparities between the charity and the health system.

Patients groups are now putting pressure on the Government to provide more State funding to the charity, since it gets just 19pc of its income from the State.

Janette Byrne, from Patients Together, said: "It's not only about the money, it's about how much better mentally and physically it is for the kids. It makes perfect sense for the Government to give them the backing that's needed.

"Obviously we support them and the Government should look at facts."

Jack and Jill now wants 50pc of its funding to come from the Government, a sum they say would be an investment for the country since they can care for children more economically.

CEO of Jack and Jill, Jonathan Irwin said: "The services would be better to families, and the savings to the country would be phenomenal. We're not attacking anyone, we're just saying that the services could be a lot better.

"We are producing the most efficient services of all, and we need to get into discussions with the HSE straight away."

Trinity's report also recommends the expansion of the Jack and Jill service to support children up to the age of six -- since it currently can only help children until four years of age.

Some 81 of 290 children receiving care under Jack and Jill are under four years of age, and the care will be discontinued without more funding.

Jack and Jill nurse Mary Jo Guilfoyle said: "These parents are caring for their children and they're doing a fantastic job. We see this as the gift of time and the gift of sanity for parents, when they're able to get home help.

"It's support to the family, and we are early intervention so that when parents are given the news that there are problems with their baby, we give them maximum support when the child is young to help them in later years."

Janette Byrne stressed that families with seriously ill children often find it hard to access help from the health services.

"We've repeatedly seen the Government lacking in support for parents who are giving care to long-term ill children. If there was investment, it'd be easier for them."

The Jack & Jill model of home nursing care empowers parents to care for their sick children at home -- children who are born with or develop brain damage and who suffer from severe intellectual and physical developmental delay.

Jack & Jill says more funding will make them less reliant on the recycling of mobile phones and public donations for the €3m required annually, and will help them to extend their services.