As Northern Ireland’s leading children’s cancer charity, we understand the devastating impact a cancer diagnosis and its treatment has on the whole family, and that beyond the essential medical care, there is a family life that needs to be rebuilt. From the point of diagnosis our team of Community and Residential Specialists are here to help, guide and support families at home, on the hospital ward, in their community, and at our therapeutic short break and residential centre in Newcastle, Co. Down.
Our support is focused not just on the young person, but on the whole family. Our aim is to empower, connect and strengthen families, so they feel equipped to deal with whatever the future may hold. We are also here to help bereaved families cope with the emotional pain of losing a child or parent to cancer, and support children who have a parent diagnosed through our Young Shoulders Programme.
From April 2017-March 2018 we supported a total of 424 families living with a childhood or parental cancer diagnosis and 139 families who have been bereaved. Here are some of our highlights from the last financial year.
We provided £68,642 in financial grants to families.
- Road Miles – £39,142
- Home Heating – £21,400
- Travel for Treatment – £7,500
- Travel for Short Breaks – £600
Financial support plays a vital role in relieving some of the financial burden a childhood cancer diagnosis imposes on a family.
Young Shoulders Programme
Our Enhanced Young Shoulders Programme, which has been funded by the Big Lottery Fund since December 2016, continues to support young people aged 0-24 years old whose parent has cancer. We achieve this through a programme of individual support, residential group work and free therapeutic short breaks. Last year we received 156 new referrals to this programme which was shortlisted for the ‘Best Charity Supporting Families’ category at the Families First Award.
Duke of Edinburgh Award
Cancer Fund for Children is a Duke of Edinburgh licenced organisation and over summer 2017 ten young people completed their practice and award expeditions in the Mourne Mountains. Participation in the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme provides these young people with an opportunity to access peer support when they had often felt in isolation within their communities.
Teenage and Young Adult Ward Support
A new regional service providing age-appropriate clinical and psychosocial support to teenagers and young adults (TYA) was launched in June 2017. The new Northern Ireland Teenage and Young Adult Cancer Service is supported by five local and national charities as part of a collaborative approach. Cancer Fund for Children provides a full-time Ward Support Specialist, to support young people from the point of diagnosis whilst they receive in-patient care. The role of this Specialist is to develop referral pathways and build relationships with young people, provide support and information in relation to treatment plans and help patients transition into the community after treatment.
Individual support remains an integral part of the overall support we offer to families. Last year our Community Specialists carried out 748 home visits. Together with their Community Specialist young people can speak confidentially about how they feel, ask questions about anything that is worrying them, and take part in activities to help them feel less isolated during their treatment. The trusting relationship that develops also encourages families to avail from the other services we provide.
Residential Group Support
Residential Group Support provides an opportunity for young people aged 8-17 years old to connect with their peers whose lives have also been impacted by cancer. Led by our experienced Specialists groups of up to 24 young people participate in physical and creative activities which increase confidence, build resilience, promote positive well-being and provide opportunity for peer support. Last year 275 young people were supported through residential group work. The graph below illustrates how 55 young people felt before and after residential group work.
Community events bring children and families together for peer support when they have often felt isolated during treatment. A total of 22 community events were organised last year. In December 2017, 550 family members attended three Christmas parties helping to create lasting memories and build support networks.
Therapeutic Short Breaks
Last year we provided 1,958 family members with a therapeutic short break or a self-catering break at our cottages in Coleraine. During a therapeutic short break families can spend quality time together in a safe and nurturing environment, far removed from a clinical environment. Peer support is just one of the many benefits of a therapeutic short break and last year 2,763 parents and children participated in residential group work helping to connect family members, build resilience and create lasting memories.
In our well-being suite we offer a full range of complementary therapies and beauty treatments. Last year our team of fully qualified staff and volunteers delivered 1,294 sessions. These treatments help to alleviate stress, improve well-being and promote relaxation during a highly stressful time for families.
We have received some amazing feedback from parents and young people,
“When your child is diagnosed with cancer, everyone tells you it is like a rollercoaster. We have absolutely experienced this. The ‘lows’ have been almost unbearable but I want to tell you that all the highs have been experienced right here in Daisy Lodge. The support we have gained has been immeasurable. The smiles on the faces of our children says it all.” (Anon)
Cancer Fund for Children receives less than 0.5% of our income from government funding and we simply could not provide our community and residential services without the support of the local community, business, schools, our support groups, and Trusts and Foundations who raised a staggering £2,577,150 in the last financial year.
Thank you all.