Clare Periton, chief executive of Oxford children's hospice Helen & Douglas House, writes in the charity's accounts about a 'challenging year'

As you might have read in last week’s press, Helen & Douglas House had a positive end to the financial year.

Our aspiration for the organisation at the beginning of the year was to achieve stability, and we have made real progress towards achieving this goal.

I would like to thank all our supporters and volunteers, because without your loyalty and generosity, we simply would not exist. I hope you will continue to support us because we are funded almost entirely by the public and continue to need your help.

This year we have continued to look after babies, children and families at the most desperate of times, and whilst these times are unimaginable for most of us, we have offered compassionate care, dignity and hope.

Every day I witness the incredible care that is provided by our medical, nursing and support teams.

ALSO READ: Children's hospice slashes expenditure by £3m

I am very proud of what they do, whether that’s providing highly technical and complex care, helping a family take their dying baby into the garden so they can feel the sun and the breeze on their faces, or making an Easter bonnet with a sibling for an Easter egg hunt.

Everything they do helps families create happy memories.

It would be remiss of me to not reference the sadness that we all felt by the very difficult decision to close the Douglas House young adult service in 2018 due to a shortfall in funding.

I am sorry for how the decision affected our staff, volunteers and most importantly the young adults we cared for.

However, I am confident that we made the right decision to secure a future for the organisation.

We are now working closely with another local children’s health care provider to explore how the Douglas House space can be used for the benefit of children and young people.

ALSO READ: Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen transforms flat at hospice

Our accounts showed that we ended the year with a surplus compared to a deficit budget.

It must be noted that this was in part due to the volatility of legacy income but successes in retail and fundraising must also be applauded, as the environment for income generation is a very challenging one.

Looking into the future we will be investing in service development and improving the environment for children and families according to need and financial sustainability.

Oxford Mail:

During this year there have been some significant changes to both our executive team and the senior nursing team.

We have planned for this succession and have been able to recruit gifted individuals who I am looking forward to working with over the coming years.

During this transitional year we continued to have the support of Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall and an undoubted highlight in our year is when the children of Helen House visit Clarence House to decorate Her Royal Highness’ Christmas Tree.

This is complemented by wider community support from several MPs in our region and we are proud to have the cross party support from Anneliese Dodds, Layla Moran and Victoria Prentis, who support us both with fundraising locally but also nationally in respect of representing local service providers as part of wider discussions about adequate hospice care funding.

ALSO READ: MP stands up for hospice in Parliament

Starting this new financial year I am excited about lots of things - developing our services for children and families, the rolling out of associate nurse apprenticeships and working with the NHS both locally and nationally to improve the provision and commissioning of children’s palliative care.

I am confident that armed with an amazing team of staff and volunteers together with ambition to develop the service aligned to need and funding, we have an extremely bright future and will able to offer vital care to families in need for many years to come.

It has been both a challenging and transformational year and our latest accounts illustrate that we have made great progress.

This is testament to the compassion, tenacity and foresight of staff and volunteers whom I am privileged to work with.