MP Backs Hammersmith Based Charity’s Plea

To Give Children with Cancer a Break

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For more information about the charity, see CLIC Sargent

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Greg Hands, Member of Parliament for Hammersmith and Fulham has called for an urgent review of the help provided to the families of children diagnosed with cancer who are often left waiting months to get financial aid.

In an article to be publish later this week in the parliamentary ‘House’ Magazine, he reveals that families have to wait for three months after a child is diagnosed with cancer before they can even claim benefit and then nearly half have to wait a further three months before they receive the first payment. Even when received, benefit does not cover the first twelve weeks of treatment, when treatment is at its most intensive and parental worry at its peak.

Hands said “Every day, 10 children and young people are told they have cancer. The whole family's life is suddenly turned upside down. For parents, coping with the shock and the emotional trauma is hard enough, but as treatment starts, so does their extra expenditure and the subsequent anxiety of financial pressures. Travel to specialist cancer hospitals, overnight accommodation to be near their child and higher telephone bills are just some of the extra costs. And these are compounded by the instant loss of income as parents struggle to cope with work and caring”.

Hands whose younger brother died of cancer four years ago said “The financial and emotional costs to my family were very real, very long term, but were nonetheless manageable, largely because my brother was an adult. To have a dependant child with cancer is, however, a much tougher proposition”.

CLIC Sargent, the UK’s leading children’s cancer charity, whose head office is in Hammersmith, is working closely with Hands who is backing its ‘Parents have a Right to Care’ campaign to highlight the serious difficulties parents face as they are torn between work and being at the bedside of their seriously ill child.

This struggle was bought home to Hands when he met Chris in the House of Commons at Christmas.

“I was launching CLIC Sargent’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Chris is just one of more than 3,000 parents a year who have struggled to keep their families going through what can be years of treatment. Single parent Chris lost his job when he told his employer that his son had cancer.”

He told Hands “My son Liam was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2004. He was 13 years old. When I told my employer that Liam was ill, he said that he was very sorry to hear about Liam but that he had a business to run and was not a charity. He left me with no job and a £500 payoff cheque. With two children and having a three hour round trip to Liverpool for Liam’s treatment, sometimes as much as four times a week, it has been such a struggle to make ends meet.”

CLIC Sargent’s call for a fairer work/care balance for parents and simplification of the benefits process adds to the all-round care and support it offers families whose lives are turned upside down by the trauma of cancer.

February 2, 2007