Wish referrals opening to general public - Q&As

For 30 days only, beginning May 16th, any member of the public will be able to refer a critically ill child to Make-A-Wish UK for a life-changing wish. Normally only health and social care professionals can refer a child, and we hope that extending this to all will reach more eligible young people and bring to life our values of being magical, inclusive and inspiring.

We appreciate that this change may raise questions about the referral process and have endeavoured to answer these questions below; however, if you have any specific questions, please contact our Referrals Team via email at [email protected].


Q. What has prompted this decision?

2021 research found that there are 63,296 children and young people, aged three to 17, who have been diagnosed with a life-limiting or life-threatening condition. That figure has doubled in the last 15 years and is set to increase.

Make-A-Wish UK exists to grant a wish for every eligible child. It's our hope that opening the referral process will bring our value of inclusivity to life; enabling anyone who knows of an eligible child to begin the process of making a wish come true.

Q. How does Make-A-Wish decide which wishes to grant first?

Priority is given to “rush” and “priority” referrals, which are for children who aren't expected to live more than 12 or 6 months, or for those facing a major surgical intervention (such as a heart transplant or chemotherapy). After these, we try to grant wishes in the order they come in, at a regional level. However, some wishes – such as overseas travel, or meeting a particular celebrity – are dependent on external factors that aren't always in our control. For these we try to be as flexible and accommodating as we can and will work with the family to find an alternative wish if the child doesn't want to wait.

Q. Why open up referrals when there are still children waiting for their wish?

When COVID-19 hit we suffered a 40% drop in income. This, combined with profound uncertainty within the sector, meant we were forced to put almost 2,000 wishes on hold. We were heartbroken to do this and remained in close communication with the families affected.

Our Wishgranting team has worked hard to combat this extraordinary challenge and well over half of those postponed wishes have now been granted. However, it's true that some children whose wishes were postponed are still waiting. COVID-19 continues to impact the types of wishes we can grant – including overseas travel, celebrity meet-and-greets, mass event attendance, and more. We're continuing to work closely with families affected to find suitable alternatives where we can. Some have expressed a desire to wait until the original wish can be fulfilled – however long that may take.

In the meantime, we know that thousands of children across the UK are eligible for a wish and haven't even begun the process. Children and young people living with critical conditions may not always have time on their side, and we don't want them to wait any longer than necessary.

Q. Why are you only opening public referrals for 30 days?

Make-A-Wish UK exists to grant a wish for every eligible child and we hope that opening to public referrals will help us do just that. However, as a charity which receives no government support, we don't have infinite resources available to grant wishes and are dependent on public donations. We hope that this 30-day trial will give the public ample time to make a referral for a critically ill child eligible for a wish, while ensuring that we can provide a truly magical experience for the children and families who are referred.

Q. Why are you unable to take referrals for Disneyland Paris wishes right now?

A visit to Disneyland Paris is one of our most popular wishes, and the backlog of Disneyland Pairs wishes that were postponed during Covid-19 remains significant. This is also the case for other Make-A-Wish affiliates throughout Europe. Make-A-Wish International are working hard to combat this backlog by allocating a number of Disneyland Paris ‘wish spaces’ to each affiliate organisation, according to availability and demand.

Currently, we cannot be certain how long it will take to tackle this backlog. We hope to provide a truly magical wish experience to children and their families which minimises uncertainty. As such, Disneyland Paris wishes will remain closed until we're confident that we can accurately predict how long a child will be waiting for their wish to come true.

We hope that the Disney UK wish – a truly unique experience, which brings the magic of Disney to life without the need for overseas travel - will appeal to many children who were initially attracted to Disneyland Paris.