We have changed how we work but it’s not perfect

 In News
A Message from our CEO

It has been a remarkable two months for everyone. Life has changed beyond recognition and like many organisations we have had to adapt, make some difficult decisions and change our working practices. I want to take you through what we have been doing over the past eight weeks and our plans as we move forward.

I want to start by saying thank you. Over the past eight weeks there have been many individuals, businesses and foundations who have supported our work at this difficult time. We are humbled and extremely grateful for your generosity.

I also want to acknowledge the courageous children, young people and families we support and thank them for their understanding, compassion and generosity, particularly those families who have shared their personal stories of family life and cancer to highlight the essential support they receive from Cancer Fund for Children.

Early on we realised that Covid:19 was going to have a huge impact on how we support young people and their families and also on how we raise funds. We were worried and like many businesses and charities anxious about the future. I have outlined some of the challenges we faced below:

 

The Challenges We Faced

 

We needed to adapt our services and we were determined to continue to accept referrals. Every week we spend in isolation in Northern Ireland, three more children will be diagnosed with cancer and countless more children will be struggling to cope with their parent’s cancer diagnosis.  This is a difficult time for everyone, and families impacted by cancer face additional worries such as fear of infection, concerns about delays to treatment plans and further separation due to isolation rules. We know that beyond this crisis young people and families will need our support more than ever.

Overnight the team developed a programme of support for children and young people impacted by cancer and moved our individual support and group work online. From the Care Free Choir, quiz nights and ‘Motivational Mondays’ – live on Facebook is has been great to see our support continue and thrive.

Unfortunately, we made the difficult decision to temporarily pause therapeutic short break at Daisy Lodge, in Newcastle Co. Down, as we did not want to put vulnerable families at risk. We also decided to pause home visits. As we moved our services online the team quickly learnt what worked and what didn’t and adapted according. Facilitating Zoom sessions with groups of 20 children aged 8-11 has its challenges but the team are making it work. Online support is great and has provided a lifeline, but I know deep down it doesn’t replace our face-to-face support and we will work tirelessly over the coming weeks to reclaim this element when it is safe and appropriate to do so.

 

We simply couldn’t keep going as normal. In the first few weeks we developed various scenarios on how we could reduce costs but still offer support with little money coming in. We therefore had to make the difficult decision to furlough a number of staff including Admin, Finance, Daisy Lodge Staff and Fundraisers. We also made other cost savings and are grateful to the many local businesses who work alongside us for their continued support and understanding.

 

As I have mentioned a major impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been a huge reduction in our income. Cancer Fund for Children exists only through the generosity of public. Each year we raise £2.4 million with £250,000 of that coming from various foundations and grants such as the National Lottery Community Fund. Up until last week we had received no government funding other than an £11,000 grant from the Southern Health and Social Care Trust.

 

With cancelled fundraising events (large and small) and corporate and community fundraising at a complete standstill, Covid:19 has had a catastrophic impact on our funding.  Alongside many other local charities who rely on fundraising, the voluntary sector faces a huge level of uncertainty over the coming weeks and months.

 

We are extremely grateful and relieved to receive short term emergency funding from the Northern Ireland Executive and from the National Lottery Community Fund. Their support has served as a lifeline when our fundraising income had all but collapsed. However, we remain cautious. Whilst this funding does provide much need relief, we still need to raise a further £2.1 million this year to ensure that once we are fully operational, we can meet the needs of children and young impacted by cancer. These young people are particularly vulnerable, and we want to ensure we can adapt our service to meet their needs.

 

Where To Now?

 

Yes, we have changed how we work, but it’s not perfect! Our team has found the past eight weeks frustrating. They are a highly motivated team who care deeply about the support they provide to young people and their families. They thrive on creating safe spaces where families grow together and can identify and develop the resources they need to cope better. Yes, this is still possible online to a certain degree and online support has served as a lifeline, but we know the essential services we offer such as short breaks at Daisy Lodge and residential group work at Narnia are missed by families.  Therapeutic and residential support has become an essential element of their cancer experience and how families cope. We miss welcoming families for short breaks, and we miss the excitement and buzz of residentials.

But Daisy Lodge and Narnia are still here, and we will be back! We are reimagining how we can safely support families in the short, medium, and long term. We know cancer hasn’t stopped during this crisis and inevitable there will be a long-term impact on cancer patients and families. We are here to ensure patients and families get the support they need. Over the coming weeks we will be ramping up our service delivery. We are listening to the views of children and young people and we promise to respond in ways that makes life easier.

Talk To Us

 

Finally talk to us. If you need support, please get in touch. If you have ideas in ways in which we can help let us know.  You can email me directly e: phil@cancerfundforchildren.com or you can contact our Services team e: services@cancerfundforchildren.com t: 028 9080 5599. 

Our mission remains to connect, empower, and strengthen young people and families struggling to cope with the emotional impact of cancer, and it is with kindness and support that we show to each other that we will get through these unprecedented times together.

Find out more about the support we provide to young people and families and how to make a referral here.

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