A CHILDREN’S hospice which serves the Elles- mere Port & Neston area may be forced to axe nursing posts and take in fewer seriously ill children as the credit crunch squeezes its funds.

Claire House in Bebington, which this year celebrates its 10th birthday, has seen a 20% drop in donations during the past six months, and needs to cut five staff to meet the shortfall.

During the years many community groups throughout the Chester area have organised fundraising events in support of Claire House.

But chief executive Karen Wright said the current crisis might lead to it having to consider taking in fewer of the most seriously ill children.

“It’s a challenge,” she said. “I don’t want to be in a celebratory year of our 10th birthday, saying ‘look at the great things Claire House has done over the last 10 years and now we’re having to let staff go’.”

It costs the charity £2.4m a year to run 10 beds for terminally ill children, respite for carers, and a whole host of emotional support services. It also sends specialist nurses out to patients’ homes.

Last year the hospice’s income sank to £1.9m and the charity had to take £800,000 out of reserve funds.

The largest fall was in corporate donations – down £250,000 to £200,000.

“The general public is still being generous, but, in terms of companies, the social responsibility budget is the first thing that is cut in times like these,” said Miss Wright.

“We need to recoup £180,000 from staff wages – the equivalent of five specialist nurses.”

To make a donation to Claire House Children’s Hospice, visit www.claire-house.org.uk.