Irish Cancer Society reverses decision to cut child fund

Wednesday 13 January 2016 23.50
The charity has said almost €200,000 will be needed this year to continue the fund
The charity has said almost €200,000 will be needed this year to continue the fund

The Irish Cancer Society has announced that it is reversing its decision to discontinue financial support for the families of children with cancer.

The U-turn affects around 200 children and their families and the charity has apologised for the upset caused.

However, adults will still be affected by the cuts. Around 2,500 adults received a one-off grant from the ICS last year. The average grant was just over €570.

Yesterday the Irish Cancer Society announced that its hardship fund would end on 31 January. 

It said it greatly regretted the decision but that it could no longer afford the scheme.

However, the society has partially rowed back on the decision and said that it will continue to maintain the fund - to a maximum of €2,000 over three years - for children and that financial support for families of children with cancer will now continue.

It added that the society will work to find the savings necessary to maintain the fund - adding it had already made significant cuts in expenditure.

Speaking on RTÉ's News At One, ICS Head of Advocacy Kathleen O'Meara said the organisation will have to come up with €200,000 to cover the cost of retaining the financial support programme for families of children with cancer.

Ms O'Meara said the organisation will have "to find the savings somewhere" and would be looking at everything, including salaries.

She added the organisation is "very transparent" regarding its €7m staff bill.

When asked if staff earning over €70,000 could have taken a pay cut to retain the service for adults, she said "it wouldn't have been enough".

Ms O'Meara said the decision to partially reverse yesterday's decision was taken in light of the major upset and anger among patients, families, donors and volunteers who have supported them across the country.

She urged people to recognise all the ICS does and the services it provides, such as free night nursing, from donations.

She said the organisation has made staff cuts of up to €750,000, cut its budget for research and made other internal efficiencies.

She said it was increasingly difficult to sustain the hardship fund for adults as demand was growing.

When the ICS cut the payment to adults for the second half of last year, it still paid out more by the end of the year than it did in 2014, such was the increase in demand.

Ms O'Meara added that unfortunately the ICS is not State-funded and it could not sustain the level of demand that is coming on it from people with cancer.

She said she hoped that people would continue to support the organisation this year.

The head of the Childhood Cancer Foundation has said she is very pleased and revealed that the ICS has reversed its decision.

Maura Toner’s daughter is in remission from cancer and she said that a childhood cancer diagnosis has a catastrophic life-changing effect on families.

She also said the financial burden is just as catastrophic as the emotional and psychological effects of a diagnosis.

She said the ICS funding is vitally important and that she used their ICS grant for psychological support for her daughter.

Ms Toner said the ICS is trying to fulfill needs that should be provided for by the government.