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Thursday, 1 October 2020

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Top oncology consultants call on government to support cancer charity for children and young people

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CONSULTANTS across the country are calling on the government to urgently provide vital support for CLIC Sargent, a charity supporting children and young people with cancer. The charity is facing a devastating £8 million loss in income during the coronavirus pandemic with donations falling by 60 per cent since the outbreak.

The Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group (CCLG) which represents doctors and nurses working in paediatric oncology, has written to Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock MP and Cancer Minister Jo Churchill MP to stress the importance of CLIC Sargent’s ‘vital’ role in supporting young cancer patients alongside the NHS.

In the letter, the 26 consultants and a lead nurse tell Mr Hancock and Ms Churchill that they’re ‘very concerned about the charity’s future’ and the significant impact this could have on children and young people with cancer if it were unable to continue providing the support it currently does.

CCLG members wrote:

“Without their [CLIC Sargent’s] support there will be an increased demand for our NHS services to provide this type of emotional support which is essential for young cancer patient’s recovery. Nor can the health system provide families with practical advice to apply for vital financial support, or accommodation close to hospitals if CLIC Sargent were unable to continue supporting children and young people. Our community is very concerned about what the impact on children and young people with cancer would be.”

Ashley Gamble, Chief Executive of CCLG, said:

“During the pandemic, cancer does not stop. Our colleagues at CLIC Sargent deliver the specialist practical, emotional and financial support our young cancer patients and their families need to get through the most challenging and difficult times of their lives.

“As clinicians working in the field of paediatric and teenage and young adult oncology, we recognise the importance of the work of CLIC Sargent and are very concerned about the charity’s future. CLIC Sargent take the pressure off our crucial NHS services – but given the anticipated shortfall of income, the future of the charity looks difficult and their ability to deliver those services is threatened.”

The call comes after CLIC Sargent CEO Rachel Kirby-Rider shared her frustration over the charity not being able to access any funds from the £750m financial package for charities announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak almost two months ago. In lieu of any information, the charity has been contacting civil servants, had MPs asking questions in parliament and frontline staff have emailed ministers to explain the reality of their role through this crisis.

Rachel Kirby-Rider said:

It’s been almost two months since the Chancellor announced a financial package for charities. CLIC Sargent didn’t receive any information on how to apply for the funding. We were frustrated with the lack of clarity and transparency about how to apply and how those decisions have been made – and we are therefore really disappointed with the lack of financial support for young cancer patients.

“Another month without support from the government has meant we’ve had to take more measures we wish we hadn’t needed to, putting our services more at stake.

“We are a charity who every day is supporting the NHS on the frontline. We desperately and urgently need the government’s help and so do the families that we support. We are not asking because we’re a charity and we expect it, we’re asking for the help because young cancer patients need us, now and into the future.”

CLIC Sargent has launched an emergency appeal for support during the coronavirus pandemic. So far, the charity has had to reduce the hours of 36 per cent of critical workers – including social workers on the frontline and furlough a third of the staff. Now the charity fears it will have to face making even tougher decisions.

Helen McShane, Director of Services at CLIC Sargent, said:

“With a decline in cancer diagnosis and referrals during the pandemic due to a drop in people visiting GPs, we know there are going to be so many more vulnerable children and young people who will need our support more than ever in the coming months. We’re concerned about an even bigger crisis than the one we are already facing.

As if watching your child go through cancer isn’t devastating enough. The reality is that many families will end up getting into crippling debt or risk losing their home because of cancer and that’s why they need our support to try and stop this happening. Our Homes from Home provide beds for families to be near their child’s hospital so they can be by their side during treatment. Our social workers help young people manage the constant anxieties of cancer. And right now, we are there for the families who are facing their final moments with loved ones in isolation, unable to make the memories they had planned. We need to be there for them when the unthinkable, and unimaginable happens.

“We want to thank CCLG and the consultants for their support in helping CLIC Sargent to fight for survival and to ensure the government do not forget young cancer patients during the pandemic.”

To read the letter signed by CCLG, click here.

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