Funding plea for Wiltshire children's hospice Julia's House that's a 'big plaster on a broken heart'

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A Wiltshire children's hospice is warning it could take years before its fundraising income returns to pre-pandemic levels.

The government has provided emergency funding to hospices during the pandemic, but it is due to end soon - meaning community fundraising efforts need to be ramped up.

Julia's House is a children's hospice in Wiltshire. It has two centres - in Devizes and Corfe Mullen - and also provides home support.

The charity cares for around 60 children who are not expected to reach adulthood, supporting their families and providing care as well as offering both practical and emotional support.

The charity needs £8million a year just to survive.

The Clarke family, from Swindon, have been going to Julia's House in Devizes once a month for their daughter Addy and son Sam to play.

Addy has a rare neurodegenerative condition which means she will likely not make it to her teenage years Credit: ITV

Addy was a perfectly healthy toddler, but two years ago she started losing her mental and physical skills and was diagnosed with Batten's disease.

The extremely rare neurodegenerative condition means she is unlikely to reach her teens.

Her parents, David and Hayley Clarke, are still coming to terms with the diagnosis.

Hayley said: "Your normal, beautiful little girl regressing into this disabled child.. We struggle to look back because it's a life of normality whereas now our lives are day-to-day grief.

"Your heart is broken and it breaks more."

David and Hayley Clarke Credit: ITV

She described Julia's House as being like a "big plaster" on her broken heart, saying it is a "massive support".

"I wish every family like ours had a Julia's House."

Just 4% of Julia's House funding comes from government sources - the other 96% comes from the public's fundraising, and the charity's shops.

During the pandemic, its shops were shut and its fundraising events cancelled.

Bosses at Julia's House hope people will still be as enthusiastic about fundraising as they were three years ago - but think it may take time.

Mike Bartlett, CEO of Julia's House, said: "I think it's going to be gradual. I don't think it's going to be overnight.

"All the confidence in the community, all those people who used to fundraise for us, all those volunteers - that real community support that's kept us going for so many years - I don't think that's going to come back immediately.

"I think it's going to take a good year or two to get back to the situation before, where we could rely on the community to help us through."