Posted on Thursday 14 September 2023
Young people with cancer deliver petition for help with travel costs to treatment to 10 Downing Street
- Petition for Young Cancer Patient Travel Fund delivered after receiving over 11,000 signatures
- Young people with cancer and their families paying out £250 extra a month to travel for treatment
- Seven in 10 young people and families are struggling with travel costs
On Tuesday 12 September, young people with cancer and their families delivered Young Lives vs Cancer’s petition for a Young Cancer Patient Travel Fund to 10 Downing Street after receiving over 11,500 signatures. MPs who support the campaign joined the group to hand in the petition calling for better financial support for young people with cancer and their families travelling for treatment.
The petition, which has received over 11,500 signatures, was delivered by a group affected by these travel costs during treatment. This included 23-year-old cancer patient Victoria Jones from Isle of Wight and five-year-old cancer patient Dylan and his mum Rachael Jeffs. As well as Young Lives vs Cancer Social Worker Kate Wheeler from Southampton and the charity’s Chief Executive Rachel Kirby-Rider.
The petition calls for a Young Cancer Patient Travel Fund to help young people with cancer and their families get better financial support to help with the cost of travelling to treatment. Research conducted by Young Lives vs Cancer found young people and families of children with cancer spend an average of £250 a month on travel costs including petrol, congestion charges, public transport and taxis, and travel an average of 350 miles a month to hospital. Seven in 10 are struggling with travel costs and one in ten have missed or delayed treatment as they could not afford the travel. On top of this, many also have to pay for parking, which can be upwards of £50 a month.
Victoria Jones, 23 from Isle of Wight, attended the hand-in after having to pay thousands of pounds to travel for treatment when she was diagnosed with lymphoma at just 21.
Victoria would have to get a ferry over from the Isle of Wight to Southampton, which could cost up to £200 return every time. This was on top of fuel, parking and taxi fares, all while not being able to work and getting little income. She was struggling so much with money that halfway through treatment she considered stopping it.
“I had to give up my flat just because I couldn’t afford it. Sometimes I wouldn’t be able to eat because I would have to budget for my ferries otherwise I wouldn’t be able to do it.
“When I was faced with giving up the flat when work had told me they were going to stop my money, I told them I was going to stop my treatment. I said I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t afford to do it, I wasn’t going to lose the roof over my head to do it. At that point, the idea of not having a roof over my head seemed a lot worse than being six foot under.”
Victoria’s Young Lives vs Cancer social worker Kate, who joined her at the petition hand-in, was able to offer financial support to make sure she got to treatment.
“I messaged Kate and I said ‘I can’t do my treatment’ and she said she would talk to Red Funnel (the ferry company) and I was lucky they said they would give me free ferry travel so I could travel comfortably.
“Kate worked on getting me some grants from some charities that really helped. If I was struggling to pay my bills then she would sort a grant out for me, they really did everything they could so I could finish my treatment.”
Vic has supported the #RunningOnEmpty campaign since it first launched in May 2023 and was inspired to come along to the petition hand in to help other young people get better financial support.
She said: “I feel so honoured to have been a part of such a big movement for change and hopefully one day a young person with cancer can sigh with relief that they don’t have to worry about their finances – I will know that I’ve been able to give them something I didn’t have. That’s a wonderful feeling.”
Five-year-old Dylan Jeffs from Birmingham who was diagnosed with cancer at just 2 also helped to deliver the petition to Downing Street. Dylan was diagnosed with leukaemia after his parents, Rachael and Russell, noticed he had unexplained bruises and seemed more tired than usual.
Dylan and his family travel from his home just outside of Dudley to Birmingham Children’s hospital for chemotherapy treatment, sometimes several times a week. It takes his parents up to an hour with traffic each way and costs over £200 in fuel every month. When treatment was at its most intense, Dylan went into hospital up to four times a week. Rachael and Russell would often share the drive, but if only one parent was available they would also have to pay to park.
Rachael said: “At the start, when I was at work Russ would take Dylan by himself, once he was there for a few hours and it was £20 parking.”
Rachael also wanted to attend the hand in to help other parents struggling with the cost of travel to treatment: “This petition is so important to us as it really will make such a difference to so many families that just like ours are unexpectedly faced with so many extra costs that we would never have foreseen, travel being the most costly.”
Dylan’s family and Victoria have all been supported by Young Lives vs Cancer, who provided financial grants to cover some of their travel costs, but they can’t cover everything. That’s why the charity is calling for a Young Cancer Patient Travel Fund, to enable all young people with cancer and their families to get better financial support to help with the cost of travelling to treatment.
Rachel Kirby-Rider, Chief Executive at Young Lives vs Cancer, says: “No young person with cancer or family should have to worry about how they can afford to get to hospital for treatment. We’ve heard from families unable to pay their bills and cutting down on food to pay for travel. It’s not right. They should be focused on what matters, getting through treatment.
“It’s great to see how much support there has been behind our call for a Young Cancer Patient Travel Fund. It’s clear this is something young people with cancer and their families need and so now we hope to hear from the government about the next steps to make this happen.”
Throughout December, Mirror readers will learn of the support Young Lives vs Cancer provides to children and young people with cancer and their families and be invited to donate towards their Christmas fundraising appeal.
Young Lives vs Cancer sees Autumn Statement as a missed opportunity to provide better financial support to children and young people with cancer and their families