Sunday 19 November 2017

'Not enough' going to cancer kids - parents

U-turn on grant welcome but still 'more questions than answers' for

PAY CUT: ICS CEO John McCormack took €10k reduction. Photo: Tom Burke
PAY CUT: ICS CEO John McCormack took €10k reduction. Photo: Tom Burke

Rachel Lavin

Parents on St John's Ward, Ireland's paediatric oncology centre in Crumlin Children's Hospital, have said that although they are "happy" with the Irish Cancer Society's decision to reverse cuts to financial aid, they are concerned over the extent of the charity's support for children with cancer.

This comes after the hardship fund, which donates up to €1,000 to individuals diagnosed with cancer to cope with financial strains, was cut after a projected deficit of €1.5m in the society's income last year.

After coming under harsh criticism for the cuts by parents of children with cancer, the society decided to partially reverse the cuts, saying it would look for a way to raise the €200,000 required in order to maintain the fund.

However, Mick O'Brien, a parent from Tipperary whose seven-year-old daughter is currently undergoing treatment for leukaemia, said although most of the parents on St John's Ward were "delighted" to see that the money was back in place for the children, "we still have more questions than answers".

The father questioned the allocation of the Irish Cancer Society's funds, claiming that ''not enough' was going to children with cancer.

He claimed counselling services and Travel2care were hard for parents of sick children to access, saying: "This criticism comes after a number of parents challenged the charity to remove a child's image from its advertising for Daffodil Day, in light of the cuts. Despite the reversal of cuts to children, some parents, including Mr O'Brien, still think children should be removed from marketing campaigns.

"We just think that the children are used too much in the marketing. What you get when people look at the marketing is they think the money is going to families and children. But for the amount that goes to children, it seems unfair."

In response to these complaints on Facebook, the Irish Cancer Society stated: "We never use sick children in our campaigns, unlike other charities who specifically raise funds for sick children," claiming that children's images are used because children can be impacted by the cancer of those close to them and children also play an important role in fundraising in schools and clubs around the country.

In email correspondence between the Irish Cancer Society and a concerned parent on the ward in April last year, CEO John McCormack stated that over 2pc of the society's expenditure goes to support children and their parents affected by cancer, even though children's cancer accounts for less than 1pc of newly diagnosed cases.

He wrote: "We recognise that the supports we provide only address a fraction of the needs in the area of paediatric cancer," adding that this is something it tries to address through its support for other children's cancer charities such as Canteen, Aoibheann's Pink Tie, Childhood Cancer Foundation and Hand in Hand, who provide direct support to parents and children affected by cancer.

"What we aim to achieve is to enable capacity building for these organisations," he wrote. He also cited investment in paediatric clinical trials, improvements to access to the Travel2care grant, working to establish peer-to-peer support for parents, lobbying efforts on behalf of children's needs to the Government and the financial aid fund as part of their role in helping children affected by cancer.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, a spokesperson for the Irish Cancer Society said that it has "apologised and expressed its regret for any upset caused by its decision to close the financial aid fund" and hoped its reversal would "ease that hurt".

Last Friday, Mr McCormack announced he would take a €10,000 wage cut from his €145,000 salary in order to help cover costs.

Sunday Independent

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