A CASH-STRAPPED baby hospice has launched a new appeal to help it care for desperately ill children weeks after warning it might have to cut services.

Zoe's Place in Middlesbrough has launched a new campaign urging everyone in the region to raise £29 each to fund one hour of vital care for a baby and family in need.

The new appeal comes after the hospice warned they were in the "most challenging times" they'd ever faced and could be forced to close for two nights a week due to financial hardship, meaning they would be unable to offer emergency respite for families.

Mark Guidery, general manager at Zoe's Place in Middlesbrough, said further cuts may be needed if the financial situation doesn't improve – a decision he said would "break his heart".

The hospice, which needs £1.5m a year to keep its doors open, has cared for more than 350 children across the North-East since opening in 2004, and at the moment has more than 30 babies and young children receiving regular nursing care.

Mr Guidery said: “Caring for a child with a life-limiting or life-threatening illness is distressing and extremely demanding. It is relentless and can often take its toll on a family.

“Here at Zoë’s Place our love and care is not just for the children. We look at the family as a unit, providing counselling sessions and sibling support, ensuring we are taking some of the weight off these families during what is a very stressful time.”

“With a sum as modest as £29 we can provide an hour of care for a child in need. We are also able to ensure that each of our children and their families are getting all the care they deserve.”

Already the scheme has the backing of Teesside Park which is rallying the help of at least 29 stores.

Staff at the hospice are also urging more people to organise their own fundraising events, calling on neighbours, families, friends and their wider community for support.

Mr Guidery added: “Whether a cake bake, sponsored walk or a coffee morning, £29 is in most cases a target we can try to reach. Every event that takes place in aid of Care £29 takes us closer to reaching our £1.5m annual target to help our hospice stay open.”

Mr Guidery said their current financial situation was a result of a reduction of donations and funding from families and clinical commissioning groups.

He also said it was impossible to know how many donations would come in at any given time, with major events such as the Great North Run the only guaranteed time the hospice can rely on receiving funds.

The first Zoë’s Place Baby Hospice opened in Liverpool in 1995, with Middlesbrough opening its doors at Crossbeck House, in High Street, in 2004 and a third facility in Coventry in 2011.