The Irish Cancer Society is closing its Financial Support programme for all cancer patients who face financial hardship as a result of their cancer diagnosis.

The society - which is a charity - said that the demand has become too big for it to manage.

It is over 90% funded by the public and it now cannot meet the growth in demand for Financial Support from cancer patients.

In 2015 the fund paid out over €1.5m to patients facing financial hardship and that figure has grown significantly since the economic downturn.

That amount was shared between 2,500 adults, and 220 families of children with cancer. The families with children with cancer got €1,000 in the first year of the child's illness, and €500 a year for two years afterwards.

The fund covered medication, heating and fuel, childcare, respite care, and parking in hospitals.

The society says it cannot put the free services at risk, and it is shifting its efforts to have the State recognise the financial burden on cancer patients.

The society funds research, information and support, night nursing service and other activities.

It wants cancer patients to have access to a medical card once diagnosed; to lobby hospitals treating cancer patients for free parking; to reduce the Drugs Payment Scheme limit to €85 from €114 and to have Community Welfare Officers recognise the impact on self-employed patients of a cancer diagnosis and to ensure they are financially supported.

The head of Advocacy and Communications at the society has said there was no good time to announce the closing of the fund and it regrets the move.

Speaking on RTÉ's Drivetime, Kathleen O'Meara said the decision was made at the end of last year when the society was drawing up its budget for 2016.

Ms O'Meara said staff were informed of the decision last Friday.

She said the society could have been more open in the way it came to deliver the news, but she does not think there is ever a good way to deliver bad news.

She also said the society had a drop in its income, adding it was time for the Government to step up.

According to its financial statement for 2014, the Irish Cancer Society had a total income of €20.6m.

Almost €7.4m was spent on payroll costs for the year. Its financial report shows that in 2014, 12 staff members earned more than €70,000.

Last year income fell to €19.5m.

Fundraising cost €5.3m in 2014. Daffodil Day raised €3.4m.

Among its costs - night nursing costs €2m. Overall its yearly spend on research is €4m. One project, Breast Predict, costs €1.5m a year for five years.

Daffodil Centres in 13 hospitals, which provide free information and support for cancer patients, cost €1.2m a year.

Ms O'Meara said the Government needs to provide medical cards for cancer patients.

She said salary cuts were considered, but the board passed the budget for this year and salary cuts were not included.

She said she acknowledges that people are angry and upset and that she does not blame them for that, but that she would like them to consider that the society is not State funded.

She added that the society will continue to provide a whole range of services for cancer patients and appealed for people to support it on Daffodil Day.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said a specific grant of €600,000 was awarded to the charity for the Travel2Care programme and under revised criteria every child with cancer has become eligible for a discretionary medical card.

The spokesperson said the qualifying criteria for discretionary medical cards has been relaxed and many more people are becoming eligible.