Posted on Monday 11 May 2020

in News

CLIC Sargent CEO Rachel Kirby-Rider: “A month after the £750m relief package was announced, we have heard nothing from government.”

Opinion piece, Rachel Kirby-Rider, CEO CLIC Sargent

It’s been more than a month since the Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a £750 million financial support package for charities – at the time many of us fighting for the survival of our charity breathed a sigh of relief.

Sadly, our initial relief was misplaced, as a month on and CLIC Sargent and many other struggling charities is yet to receive any information on how to apply for the funding, or if we can even access it.

There is no telephone number to call, no website to apply to, and no public information on how the £750 million pot for charities can be accessed. In lieu of any information we’ve been contacting civil servants, had MPs asking questions in parliament, frontline staff have emailed ministers to explain the reality of their role through this crisis, and we’ve even asked our NHS clinician colleagues to call for government support on our behalf. But still no straight answers, radio silence. This is the reality behind the headline and every day that passes, charities struggle to stay afloat.

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.

CLIC Sargent is the UK’s leading cancer charity for children and young people, providing them with emotional, practical and financial support throughout one of the most challenging times in their life. The services we provide are not a ‘nice to have or cherry on the top service’. They stop families from losing their homes, getting into crippling debt or not being able to feed their children during cancer treatment. Our social workers help people manage isolation, the constant anxieties during a crisis and unfortunately, yes we’re there to support young people with terminal cancer who can’t make the memories they had planned.

We are a charity who every day is supporting the NHS on the frontline and providing vital services and support for vulnerable and disabled children and young people. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said part of the funding would go to charities ‘supporting vulnerable children…or disabled people.’ We support people in both of these categories, but we still have heard nothing, and neither have any of the other charities we work closely with.

At CLIC Sargent we pride ourselves on transparency, we know we don’t always get it right but we’ll hold our hands up and learn from it. Our supporters and beneficiaries expect that level of integrity. So it is disappointing that this hasn’t been the approach to this funding. When will the Government be open and transparent about what’s going on? We desperately and urgently need their 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.

We have seen a 60% drop in income, and have a projected £8 million annual loss. We have furloughed 32% of our staff and reduced the hours of 36% of our critical workers. It isn’t an option to furlough our full workforce. We cannot furlough our social care workers or Homes from Home staff – if we did so children and young people with cancer would be without support, and their parents unable to stay near the hospital their child is receiving treatment at when it’s a considerable distance away.

Our NHS colleagues are urging us to keep our services open in order to support them during the incredibly challenging time. But we can only do so as long as we are financially able to, and as long as is safe to do.

Without a vital injection of funding, CLIC Sargent’s future and services remain uncertain. We’ve been supporting children and young people living with cancer for more than 15 years. We know with a decline in referrals during the coronavirus pandemic as reported by the NHS and media, there are going to be so many more vulnerable people who will need our support more than ever in the coming months. Cancer rates and deaths could be the bigger crisis we face from this period of low diagnosis. If we aren’t there to support them, who will be? That is just unthinkable.

Despite our pressure for answers from the government, we have received no response – and we’re still none the wiser about when, or even if we will get support.

We urge the government to consider closely the findings of the report published on 6th May by the Digital, Culture, Media and Support Committee detailing the impact of coronavirus on the charity and voluntary sector. The report highlighted a concern for the lack of transparency for accessing the £750m fund and lack of clarity about the eligibility criteria. We share and echo this concern.

The coronavirus crisis is something we have never seen in our lifetime and we have seen some incredible examples of society coming together as one. But cancer is quickly becoming the forgotten ‘C’. We urge the government not to forget young cancer patients. We are fighting to ensure their voice is heard, but we can’t do this alone.

Notes to editors
For more information, an interview or images, please contact Jessica Browne on 077 4119 5055, or email Jessica.browne@clicsargent.org.uk.

About cancer in children and young people
Today, 12 more children and young people in the UK will hear the devastating news that they have cancer. Treatment normally starts immediately, is often given many miles from home and can last for up to three years. Although survival rates are over 80%, cancer remains the single largest cause of death from disease in children and young people in the UK.

About CLIC Sargent
When cancer strikes young lives CLIC Sargent helps families limit the damage cancer causes beyond their health. CLIC Sargent is the UK’s leading charity for young cancer patients and their families. We provide specialist support, to help and guide each young cancer patient and their family. We will fight tirelessly for them, individually, locally and nationally. For more information, visit www.clicsargent.org.uk

Note to sub editors
Please note that the name ‘CLIC Sargent’ should not be abbreviated to CLIC, and that the word ‘CLIC’ should always appear in capitals, as above.

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