Open letter on proposal to close Malcolm Sargent House in Prestwick

Peter Hollins, CLIC Sargent Chair of Trustees open letter on the Board's proposal to close Malcolm Sargent House in Prestwick. 

To whom it may concern,

I write as Chair of CLIC Sargent’s Board of Trustees to announce our decision following the consultation on a proposal to withdraw from the direct provision of holiday services and to close Malcolm Sargent House.

We would like to thank everyone who has been in touch with CLIC Sargent about this proposal. This has been a very difficult decision to reach. As a Board of Trustees, our primary focus must be on the children and young people with cancer and their families that we serve.

During the external consultation, CLIC Sargent heard from more than 400 individuals, including current and former service users in all parts of the UK, and many others across the community. Managers have had detailed discussions with staff at Malcolm Sargent House, as well as employees across the charity. The local community’s desire to retain the holiday service is acknowledged in two petitions with close to 12,000 signatures.

We have listened, and we recognise the strength and depth of feeling that has been expressed by so many about this service. We have been clear throughout the consultation that we would look at any alternative proposals that met the scale of savings needed in the timeframe required. In particular, the charity was approached by a local interested group and received a proposal from this group, who indicated an interest in the future of Malcolm Sargent House. 

Having reviewed and considered all proposals, feedback and evidence available, the Board of Trustees has come to a decision in two parts. Firstly, with great sadness the Board has decided to proceed with the closure of CLIC Sargent’s holiday service and we will now be speaking with affected staff and volunteers about what this means for them. Secondly, the Board has agreed that, in order to give the local group further time to register their organisation, raise sufficient funds and develop a clear operating plan, CLIC Sargent will continue talks with the group. 

We have taken the best decision in the overall interests of the Charity. While there is no question that the holiday service at Malcolm Sargent House has provided an excellent service, it would be irresponsible to continue spending in excess of half a million pounds a year on a facility that only provides holidays to 5% of the families we support. We must prioritise the services that have the greatest impact on the greatest number of children and young people with cancer and their families.

Staff who will be directly affected by this proposal have played a full part in this consultation and we would like to pay tribute to the professionalism and integrity they have shown and, moreover, their years providing an excellent service to families. CLIC Sargent employees have engaged with the wider consultation through positive debate. Everyone involved in this process, including CLIC Sargent volunteers in Prestwick, has demonstrated their enormous commitment to children and young people with cancer, and we have been presented with a wide range of suggestions and ideas, some of which the charity will explore further in relation to other aspects of the way we work.

This proposal has raised some questions in Ayrshire’s local community about our commitment to services in Scotland. As a Board we know that the sizeable distances families have to travel for treatment at specialist hospitals mean the need for our essential services like Homes from Home is particularly great in Scotland. 

That is why we believe it is right that CLIC Sargent has committed to investing around £3.2m in moving and expanding our Homes from Home in Glasgow and Edinburgh in response to the relocation of the children's hospitals in these cities and the currently unmet need for accommodation for families close to treatment centres. This is a significant and costly undertaking for the charity but truly essential.

We recognise the generous support that families, local people, businesses and many more in the community have given over the years and want to thank you for your generosity. Your continued support has never been more important. Although the money saved from the closure of the holiday service will go some way towards the cost of relocating our Home from Home service in Edinburgh, we continue to rely on the support of the public to protect our vital frontline services for young cancer patients in Scotland and across the UK.

In-line with our legal obligations as the Board of Trustees, it is of the utmost importance to us that we are making best use of the funds donated to us. While there is growing financial pressure on all charities due to the challenging fundraising environment we all face, it is also incumbent on us to ensure that CLIC Sargent is operating in a sustainable way. These considerations alongside our first duty to provide the best support to children and young people with cancer and their families have been at the heart of the decision we are announcing today.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Hollins

Chair of Trustees, CLIC Sargent