Charity for volunteers providing playtime for children in hospitals loses Government funding

Children in Hospital Ireland now faced with trying to increase its fund-raising to meet the shortfall of almost a third in its €280,000 annual budget

The organisation Children in Hospital Ireland, which trains, supports and co-ordinates hundreds of volunteers to provide playtime in 14 hospitals around the country, has lost its core Government funding.

Having learnt earlier this month that its application to Pobal (which works on behalf of Government to support communities and local agencies) for €90,000 a year over the next three years was unsuccessful, it is now faced with trying to increase its fund-raising to meet the shortfall of almost a third in its €280,000 annual budget.

For the past 14 years, Children in Hospital Ireland has been supported with a government grant through Pobal, while generating the other two-thirds of its budget through fund-raising and donations from the hospitals it serves.

“This decision on statutory funding puts the very existence of the Children in Hospital Ireland service at risk, thus negating the investment made in it through government funding over the years,” says its CEO Anna Gunning.


“The real losers would of course be the many families and children who avail of the service, as well as the hospitals themselves, who know from experience the value of this unique voluntary service.”

As to why the charity lost out this time, Pobal says it is not in a position to provide information in respect of an individual organisation. However, it adds that applications to the Scheme to Support National Organisations 2022-2025 proved to be “a highly competitive process”. Funding of about €21 million was provided to 82 organisations, out of approximately 230 applications.

Ironically, the funding loss comes at a time when the charity has been working with Children’s Health Ireland on plans to increase significantly the contribution of volunteers when the new children’s hospital opens - now due at the end of 2024 at the earliest.

Founded in 1970 as the Association for the Welfare of Children in Hospital, the organisation has a proud history of promoting the value of play in children’s hospitals, as well as supporting families of hospitalised children.

In recent years it has advocated for the training and employment of professional play specialists in paediatric hospitals, while its play volunteers continue to provide vital back up to hospital staff and families alike. Currently it has about 400 volunteers on its books, who give a total of 35,000 hours a year between them to children in 14 hospitals.

Rachel Griffin, who is the only professional play specialist working in Cork University Hospital and is kept busy with children referred to her, says these volunteers are “invaluable to us. It’s great to have that resource and they are a great bunch of people. They are very helpful to me as a play specialist”.

Sheila Wayman

Sheila Wayman

Sheila Wayman, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about health, family and parenting