Monday 21 May 2018

Cancer charity's €7.4m payroll under review to fund hardship scheme

The move follows the society's decision yesterday to reopen its financial support fund. Photo: PA
The move follows the society's decision yesterday to reopen its financial support fund. Photo: PA
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Some 10 senior managers in the Irish Cancer Society are to have their salaries of more than €70,000 reviewed in a bid to generate the funds needed to provide financial support to families of children fighting the disease.

The move follows the society's decision yesterday to reopen its financial support fund - following an earlier shock announcement that it was being closed, which sparked public outrage.

The scheme is now being reopened - but for children only - and the charity needs to make around €200,000 in savings to supply the fund.

A spokeswoman said its chief executive John McCormack earns €145,000 a year and has his health insurance covered, at a cost of around €3,000. He also has a company car, a Toyota Avensis, due to the amount of travelling he does. He contributes 12pc of his gross salary towards his pension and the charity gives 16pc. The spokeswoman declined to name the other senior managers or specify their salaries on the grounds of confidentiality.

The charity's 2014 accounts showed its payroll costs were €7.4m. It receives around €300,000 from the Department of Health annually to distribute to cancer patients it deems are in need of help with transport costs.

Its fundraising income fell to €19.5m last year from €20.6m in 2014, prompting it to axe the financial support scheme - which paid out €1.8m in 2015.

A survey carried out by the charity last year highlighted the hidden costs faced by cancer patients, which can amount to up to €1,200 a month.

The spokesperson said it had already cut salary costs by not covering maternity leave, not filling some vacancies and through a small number of redundancies.

However a spokeswoman confirmed that, while a pay freeze was in place between 2008 and 2014, staff - excluding the chief executive and senior management - received a 1pc pay rise last year.

Kathleen O'Meara, the charity's director of advocacy, said the U-turn on the support fund was made in light of "the major upset and anger" among patients, families and donors.

The financial pressures faced by families of children with cancer were greater than for adults, she said, adding: "We are simply going to have to find the money.

"We have to look for a good year in terms of fundraising and we hope people support us."

Ms O'Meara said its salaries were reflective of the fact it was a service organisation that needed people with expertise.

"We are currently looking at everything. We need the public to support us now more than ever.

"As a charity, we are trying to do the best we can with the money which the public generously give us.

"We provide free cancer services, which include a palliative care night nursing service; our volunteer driver service, which provides free transport for cancer patients travelling for chemotherapy treatment; 13 Daffodil Centres in hospitals nationwide; the cancer nurse line, which provides cancer information and support; and free counselling for cancer patients requiring support. We are the largest voluntary funder of cancer research."

The U-turn was welcomed by Maura Toner of the Irish Childhood Cancer Foundation, who said families with a child fighting cancer could find themselves under serious financial pressure.

Irish Independent

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