Hospice care forms an integral part of the palliative care service. Below is an overview of what hospice care is, how to access their services and links to the major children's hospice care providers in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

A Children’s Hospice can be a building, philosophy or a service where children with life-limiting and palliative conditions and their families are provided with support by Nursing, Medical and Health/ Social Care Professionals at varying times during the child or young person’s life.

In general, children are referred to the hospice by a healthcare professional, however referrals from parents are also welcomed.  Cases are then reviewed individually by the clinical team and, depending on the outcome, various services can be offered to the child/ young person and family.

The services offered by Children’s Hospices can include: 

  • Short breaks (Respite Care) planned in advance around your child’s needs.  This service may also be provided at home depending on hospice resources
  • Symptom management – access to guidance and advice about how to manage your child’s changing symptoms
  • Crisis Care – immediate care and support at difficult/ challenging times.
  • Transitional Care – support for families around the time of hospital discharge
  • End of Life care provided around the final phase of a child’s life. 
  • Bereavement support: Continued support following the death of a child. 

A Children’s Hospice is a joyful and bright place which seeks to enhance opportunities for children with palliative care needs to enable them to live their life to their full potential. As a parent you can expect to remain the primary carer for your child and be consulted in all aspects of their care. 

Children’s Hospice care is about making the most of the time you and your family have with your child.  The healthcare team work together with you to provide the best possible service to your child and treat every child and family as individual.  All care needs that are specific to your child are taken into account.  The team work towards making your child’s time at the hospice a happy and memorable experience.  

Below you will find links to the primary Children’s Hospices in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. 

A directory of Palliative Care Services across the country of Ireland can also be found on the Irish Association of Palliative Care website: www.iapc.ie/iapc-directory.php  

Written by Grace Stewart and Blaize Whelan, 2014

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice

Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice is the only service of its type in Northern Ireland that cares for children and young people with very complex needs. Our service is based on the values of the preciousness of life, respect and compassion, and holds close to our philosophy; “caring is at the heart of everything we do”.

The mission of the Children’s Hospice is to provide high quality care and support to children and young people with life-limiting conditions, and their parents and carers. Care is provided in the child’s own home and in the Children’s Hospices in Antrim and Fermanagh.

There are over 1,300 life-limited children and young people in Northern Ireland who need the specialist care that only the Children’s Hospice can provide. Receiving the diagnosis that your child is life-limited is devastating for families and they need support. 

At Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice, we want to make it as easy as possible for local families to access the care and support they need. We tailor our service to the needs of the individual and aim to meet the emotional, social and spiritual needs, as well as the physical ones, to enable children and young people to make the most of their lives within the limitations of their illness.

As leaders in the field of children and young people’s palliative care, we also provide support, advice and education to professional colleagues from the multidisciplinary teams involved in supporting this cohort of children and young people with life-limiting conditions. 

Republic of Ireland

LauraLynn is the only children’s hospice in the Republic of Ireland.  Officially opened in September 2011 our purpose built 8-bedded unit provides palliative care and support for children with life-limiting conditions and their families. 

Referrals can be made by families or any medical or healthcare professional involved with the child’s care. We accept referrals from anywhere in the Republic of Ireland and this is reflected in the children and their families currently using our services who travel from locations throughout Ireland.  We provide: respite care; home support; crisis care; transitional care (between hospital and home); and end-of-life care.  

Our holistic approach to care delivered by our multidisciplinary team enables us to support the whole family throughout the child’s illness, death and bereavement.  

We pride ourselves on working in partnership with our colleagues in hospitals and the community with a shared goal of ensuring high quality care to all the families who use our services.

When a child has a life-limiting condition, many parents take on the role of primary carer and prefer where possible to care for their child at home.  Ideally families should be offered a range of regular and reliable respite, both in the home and away from home.

In response to parent’s preference, we are currently piloting a hospice at home service providing ‘hands-on’ palliative care in the family home in two geographical areas of Ireland.  LauraLynn@Home is in operation in both the Dublin North-East and Dublin Mid-Leinster regions of the Health Service Executive. 

In striving for excellence in the provision of children’s palliative care, LauraLynn has recently established Clinical Education & Research Department.  The remit of this department is to provide a range of educational programmes and initiatives for healthcare professionals and others interested in improving quality of care to children with life-limiting conditions.  The programmes run by our clinical education and research department are all specifically related to the care for children with life-limiting conditions and their families.  We welcome the attendance of external candidates on all of our courses. At LauraLynn we are also leading on several children’s palliative care research projects at both a local and national level.