AFTER 10 years helping children cope with life-limiting conditions and supporting their families, Julia's House is expanding its services.

The Dorset children’s hospice is celebrating its decade with new research, neo-natal and transition services, and is using its experience to help other hospices nationwide.

“The last decade for Julia’s House has been about providing frequent respite care,” said chief executive Martin Edwards.

“We can now see that this clearly benefits the family’s quality of life as well as the child, so we need to do more in the next decade.

“This is partly about getting earlier referrals of seriously ill babies so we can help families before they reach crisis point.”

The hospice aims to improve services for 18-year-olds when they transfer into the care of adult services and the neonatal service will mean earlier referrals, from three months instead of six months.

Bournemouth University is undertaking a PhD study exploring the impact that respite care has on parental relationships.

“It is anticipated that findings from this study will play a key role in informing respite care services provided by all children’s hospices across the UK in the future,” said Dr Jane Hunt, Bournemouth University School of Health and Social Care.

There is a high level of marriage break up among families struggling to cope with very sick children. The results of the study will be used to lobby political parties for manifesto commitments before the next general election.

It will cost around £3.4million to run the charity this year, with its Corfe Mullen hospice and community team of 69 nurses and carers, which receives less than 10 per cent from government.

Julia’s House is mentoring the Alexander Devine Children’s Hospice in Berkshire, which wants to replicate the charity’s frequent respite care, which is unique in offering regular care in children’s homes.

In the autumn the mentoring service will be extended by offering support to any UK children’s hospices who want to follow their model of care.