CHILDREN’S hospice Julia’s House has been able to purchase a vital new piece of equipment, thanks to funding from the Gannett Foundation.

The grant, worth £5,250, will fully fund the cost of a ‘cuddle blanket’, which helps grieving families spend time with their loved one after they have died.

The Gannett Foundation is the charitable arm of Gannett Co Inc, owner of Newsquest Media Group. The company publishes the Daily Echo and other local newspapers, websites and magazines across the UK.

Martin Edwards, chief executive of Julia’s House, said the new equipment will enable the hospice to provide a larger number of families with end-of-life support.

“We have one cuddle blanket that tends to be used at the hospice, but we’re getting more instances where more than one child is entering end-of-life care at the same time across the whole of our area," he said.

“It’s very important, if you are allowing that time with a deceased child, for the body to be well looked after. This cooling blanket allows us to preserve the body of a child or young person, enabling them to stay either at home or in the hospice for several days and nights until their funeral.

“We’ve found it helps a lot of families and allows them to try to come to terms with what has happened in the company of their own family and of our nurses and carers, rather than a child’s body being whisked away to an undertakers.”

The charity is currently looking after more than 90 families in Dorset and is increasingly providing end-of-life care at home.

Mr Edwards added: “We’ve had quite a few end-of-life cares in the last few weeks. These days, unless a child has died on an operating table in a hospital, it’s the wish of a great many children and families that they are home at the end because it’s the environment they’re most familiar with.”

Daily Echo editor, Andy Martin said: "We're are delighted to be able to help Julia's House and the incredible work of everyone associated with it."

As well as donating funds to Julia’s House, the Gannett Foundation has handed out £6,000 to Bournemouth-based charity Faithworks Wessex so it can purchase home starter kits for rough sleepers.

In the last 10 years the foundation has given away more than £3 million to help community causes across the country.