Scottish Election 2021: Support fund for parents with kids in hospital to be boosted

A £1.5m fund aimed at helping the families of premature and sick newborn babies cope with the financial cost of their child being in hospital, is to be increased to £5m to cover all young patients under the age of 18.

A fund for helping parents of premature babies will be expanded by the SNP.
A fund for helping parents of premature babies will be expanded by the SNP.

The Neonatal Expenses Fund was established by the Scottish Government in 2018 after a campaign by Scottish Labour MSP Mark Griffin, who experienced first hand the costs of visiting hospital on a daily basis for weeks after his daughter was born 12 weeks early.

Nicola Sturgeon said on Sunday that if re-elected, the SNP would expand the fund which helps offset the cost for parents and guardians of travelling to hospital and for subsistence such as meals and away from home accommodation where that is necessary.

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She said it would be re-branded as the Young Patients Family Fund, and would “remove a significant financial burden which can prevent families from being near their children when they’re in hospital.”

She added: “Spending time at hospital can be a really worrying time for young patients. The SNP wants to make sure that families spend their time caring for their sick child, not having to worry about who will cover the cost of travel, hotels and meals.

“The SNP has a bold vision for the future of Scotland. Make sure to give both your votes to the SNP to deliver this transformative change for our young people and their families.”

The Neonatal Expenses Fund allows families to claim for the travel costs of one return journey, parking and up to £8.50 in subsistence costs each day for the duration of their baby's stay in a unit.

About 4,400 babies are born prematurely every year in Scotland, and the average additional cost to parents is estimated to be more than £200 a week. At its launch it was expected to help more than 8,000 families each year.

Scottish Labour MSP Mark Griffin campaigned on the issue with Bliss charity after his baby daughter Rosa was born 12 weeks early in 2017. He said he had seen parents in distress because they were unable to visit their children in hospital each day because of the travel costs.

The move to expand the scheme comes after a campaign by CLIC Sargent, a charity for children and young people with cancer, which has called for the creation of a Young Cancer Patient Travel Fund since 2018.

SNP MP Amy Callaghan, who twice survived cancer as a teenager, heralded the move as “ground-breaking” for young patients:

“I know from experience that having a familiar face close by is a huge comfort during what can be a daunting experience in hospital.

“We know that having the support of loved ones during hospital treatment can improve health outcomes for children and young people and this move will make a real difference to families across Scotland.

“I am delighted the SNP is expanding on the suggestion of CLIC Sargent - and I’m sure this will be a decision welcomed by patients, their families and our amazing NHS.”

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