ZOE’s Place Baby Hospice is fighting to survive during the recession which has seen donations plummet to a record low.

The ‘home from home’ for babies and children under six who have life-limiting or life-threatening conditions costs £1m a year to run, yet in 2012 it fell short by £150,000 and a gloomy shortfall of 20 per cent is predicted this year.

With little Government funding, the biggest outgoing is the wages bill for the team of highly trained nurses who can offer one-to-one specialist care to up to six youngsters from across the country at any one time.

“We are not at the stage where we are going to close and we do not want to panic people but we are at the stage where we need to push as hard as possible,” said Rachael Willmore, community fundraiser.

Many firms forced to cut costs during the recession are unable to give as generously and income generated through collection tins has fallen as shoppers feel the pinch.

Children looked after at the renovated former convent in Normanby on the outskirts of Middlesbrough have included those with genetic defects, heart or lung abnormalities and yet very few have suffered from cancer.

Some parents leave their sick poorly baby for a morning while they catch up on much needed sleep or do a supermarket shop while other parents rely on the medical and emotional support offered when their child dies.

“In 11 years this is the toughest without any shadow of a doubt, we are no different to other charities but hospices need a lot of money to run," said chief executive, Mark Guidery.

“For a parent to admit that they need help is a big thing as they are looking after their child 24/7.

"It takes so much for them to build up the bond of trust so they have to know 100 per cent in their heads that their child is being looked after by trained, professional nursing staff. Every penny makes a difference to us, it is a slog at the moment.”

He added: “We cannot sustain being 20 per cent down for long. We can cut corners in almost everything else but not in the children’s care.”

To make a donation or find out about fundraising events call 01642-457985 or visit www.zoes-place.org.uk/middlesbrough.