Posted on Thursday 9 April 2020

in News

Reaction to the Government’s announcement on support for charities by Chief Executive of CLIC Sargent, Rachel Kirby-Rider

Last night I tuned in to the Government’s daily press conference, as I have most nights in hope, and finally the Chancellor Rishi Sunak made his long-awaited announcement on how the Government would provide financial support to charities in the UK who are in crisis because of the impact of Coronavirus.

I watched it anxiously, knowing how serious the situation has become for the young cancer patients and their families who rely on CLIC Sargent’s vital services. Every charity in the UK had been waiting for weeks to hear what kind of help there would be as the financial situation for all of us has become bleaker by the day. A promising start, it was positive to hear Mr Sunak recognise the role of charity services like CLIC Sargent’s social workers, nurses and homes that are supporting the NHS and some of the most vulnerable children and young people in the UK. But it quickly became apparent that the promised £750m has to stretch incredibly far – as he suggested the Government won’t be able to save all charities and with NCVO estimating the sector will lose £4billion; there’s no question that this will not save services that the UK public depend on.

So, while we welcome the news of financial help for charities and I’m keen to hear the details of what support is available and more importantly, how and when we can access it, there’s no getting away from the reality – CLIC Sargent is fighting to survive, the clock is ticking for our services.

Since the coronavirus hit the UK our income fell off a cliff, an instant 60% drop. We face losing £8million – which for a charity of our size is devastating. That money doesn’t fund nice to have or cherry on the top activities, it pays for things that the public often can’t believe are funded by a charity; social workers, nurses, homes for families to stay in while their children are going through gruelling cancer treatment and financial grants to make sure they have enough money for food or petrol to get their child to hospital.

We all know how lucky we are to have free world-class NHS cancer treatment but the added costs of your child having cancer are huge. Treatment can go on for years and throughout families are hit with extra costs of around £600 per month for things like travelling to hospital, parking, food and higher fuel bills. There are families who tell us they’d have lost their home if it wasn’t for CLIC Sargent.

Although families tell us they have no idea how they would get through the years of emotional, financial and practical strain of childhood cancer treatment without our services, CLIC Sargent is 100% voluntary funded. So, when we’ve had to put virtually all our fundraising activity on hold, from Marathons and skydives to cake sales and charity shops – we know that £8million is money we will never get back. And with so many other charities in a similar position, there won’t be enough money from the Government to fill that gap.

Emergency measures in place

Sadly, we’ve already had to do the unthinkable and we have been forced to take emergency measures to ration our support at a time when families need us more than ever. This is heartbreaking for our social workers, who have never been busier on the frontline supporting families hit by the impact of Coronavirus – whether it’s terrified calls that their already severely ill child is vulnerable to catching it and scared they may not survive; or that their cancer treatment could be delayed, to crisis conversations with those that were already at financial breaking point and job losses or self-isolation, means they are now desperate to get the basics like food.

The NHS partners and hospital staff we work alongside are telling us how vital it is for them that we keep services running but we’re being forced to reduce them by 20%. It should not have to come to this.

No CEO wants to have reduce the service we provide when we know there are more families and young people who need us than ever before.  Every day our frontline social care staff are seeing the desperate situation families are in.

We don’t want to do this, we have to.  This is the only way we can try to make sure that CLIC Sargent services exist for the children who will be diagnosed with cancer in a year’s time, whilst also doing as much we can to support the people that need us now.

Our short-term emergency measures include:

  • 29% staff including frontline social care workers hours reduced by 20%
  • 25% of staff have been furloughed under the Government’s Job Protection Scheme
  • Managers taking voluntary pay cuts and staff redeployed
  • Skeleton staff fighting to raise every penny in emergency appeal to support children and young people with cancer through this crisis

We have a perfect storm. We are a support charity so we can’t mothball our frontline services, they’re needed more than ever by families and the NHS. But because our funding is 100% voluntary, we can’t just furlough all our fundraising staff, we have to retain a skeleton staff to keep trying to raise money during this period through the limited fundraising methods available now; trying to make a small dent on that huge gap in income we are predicting this year.

Much of the funding we’ve lost we will never get back; it won’t just turn back on at the end of this crisis and will have impacts far beyond this period into the coming years.

I will keep working alongside other charities and NCVO’s Every Day Counts Campaign because we agree, last night’s announcement from the Government was an important first step but it will not be enough to prevent more charities from going under and being forced to close their doors to those who rely on them.

With so much uncertainty about how much financial support we will get over the coming months or how long we will have to suspend our fundraising activities, I have to face the very real scenario that we may be forced to go further with changes to the way our services run. This would be devastating for the frontline care teams who are working tirelessly throughout this crisis, and most importantly for the families and young people we support. One thing that is certain, at CLIC Sargent every one of us will keep fighting to limit the damage that Coronavirus does to services for children and young people with cancer.

We need all the support we can get. If you can, please donate to our emergency appeal – https://donations.clicsargent.org.uk/

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