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DOING WHAT'S RIGHT,
NOT WHAT'S EASY

Our impact 2020-21

Normally an impact report would just be a long list of everything we’ve achieved. But at Young Lives vs Cancer we believe in being brave and accountable, so this is a report with a difference. Because in 2020, a global pandemic changed everything for children and young people with cancer, for their families, for us and the amazing people who so crucially fund everything we do in communities across the UK.

And of course, cancer didn’t stop for the coronavirus. We heard from parents and young people about the sudden and huge impact of Covid-19 on their lives: wage cuts, job losses and worries about getting food; families fractured and support systems destroyed. All on top of cancer treatment and cycles of side effects on their child, terrified about vulnerability to infections, isolation on hospital wards; families living in fear.

They needed us more than ever. But, in a year where normal life as we knew it suddenly stopped, we also had another fight on our hands. As a charity that is funded 100% by voluntary donations, we had to survive and adapt quickly for everyone who so desperately needed us.

Our team of supporters, staff, volunteers and partners stepped up in the most spectacular ways in 2020, with bravery, kindness and solidarity. It was a year like no other but one we are incredibly proud of. This is the story behind the statistics.

DOING WHAT'S RIGHT,
NOT WHAT'S EASY

Our impact 2020-21

Normally an impact report would just be a long list of everything we’ve achieved. But at Young Lives vs Cancer we believe in being brave and accountable, so this is a report with a difference. Because in 2020, a global pandemic changed everything for children and young people with cancer, for their families, for us and the amazing people who so crucially fund everything we do in communities across the UK.

And of course, cancer didn’t stop for the coronavirus. We heard from parents and young people about the sudden and huge impact of Covid-19 on their lives: wage cuts, job losses and worries about getting food; families fractured and support systems destroyed. All on top of cancer treatment and cycles of side effects on their child, terrified about vulnerability to infections, isolation on hospital wards; families living in fear.

They needed us more than ever. But, in a year where normal life as we knew it suddenly stopped, we also had another fight on our hands. As a charity that is funded 100% by voluntary donations, we had to survive and adapt quickly for everyone who so desperately needed us.

Our team of supporters, staff, volunteers and partners stepped up in the most spectacular ways in 2020, with bravery, kindness and solidarity. It was a year like no other but one we are incredibly proud of. This is the story behind the statistics.

In the depths of a global pandemic, we were still there for families...

  • 6,500

    families were supported by Young Lives vs Cancer – that's about 23,000 people

  • 4,932

    financial grants were provided – that’s more than £1 million given directly to families

  • 170

    families were given a place to stay for 299 nights at our Homes from Home

In February 2021, people we had supported over the last three years told us as a direct result of our service:

84% of young people were helped to get their life back on track after cancer. This is significantly higher than when we last asked in 2019

61% of parents were helped to adjust to life after their child’s cancer treatment. This is slightly lower than 2019 – and we want that to improve.

A year like no other, but we faced it together.

Jeremy talks about treatment through lockdown

In the depths of a global pandemic, we were still there for families...

  • 6,500

    families were supported by Young Lives vs Cancer – that's about 23,000 people

  • 4,932

    financial grants were provided – that’s more than £1 million given directly to families

  • 170

    families were given a place to stay for 299 nights at our Homes from Home

In February 2021, people we had supported over the last three years told us as a direct result of our service:

  • 84% of young people were helped to get their life back on track after cancer. This is significantly higher than when we last asked in 2019

  • 61% of parents were helped to adjust to life after their child’s cancer treatment. This is slightly lower than 2019 – and we want that to improve.

A year like no other, but we faced it together.

Jeremy talks about treatment through lockdown

Chapter 1: From pandemic to evolution

THE PANDEMIC PACKED A PUNCH

As anxieties and isolation increased dramatically for families and we could no longer be in hospital wards or homes in person, we found new ways to connect. Families were facing brand new and constantly changing struggles they needed our help with, from getting access to priority food deliveries, to being on the end of the phone during treatment when visitors were not allowed.

52%

of families felt they were not coping well with the ongoing pandemic

53%

of families felt they needed more financial help to manage day-to-day living costs

39%

of young people experienced some aspect of their cancer care alone

19%

of young people who were on treatment had their treatment delayed in some way.

While there was an urgent need for our support, our usual ways of fundraising had to stop.

  • All of our fundraising events were put on hold – our incredible supporters had to hang up their running shoes and put down their collection buckets

  • Our shops closed their doors and our awesome volunteers didn’t know when they could get back out there raising money

  • Our door-to-door and street fundraising stopped. This is where we find a lot of supporters who give to us on a regular basis

At the beginning of the pandemic we were looking at a loss of around £9 million in 2020/21 alone. That meant we had to make some immediate changes, so that despite the country being in lockdown we could still be there for families – we had to do what was right, not what was easy.

  • Our services adapted overnight with many moving online. We came up with a plan and started using new digital tools and methods so we could help in as many ways as possible within the restrictions

  • In spring 2020, we sadly had to furlough 32% of our staff. A further 36% of staff temporarily reduced their hours to save costs and another 2% took a voluntary pay cut for a temporary period to help contribute towards recouping some of the income we were losing.

My Young Lives vs Cancer Social Worker kept me happy during one of the saddest times in my life.

Theo, 12 years old

CLIC House has been our second home for the last two years throughout the pandemic. We are very grateful and I can’t even imagine what we would have done if we didn’t have this opportunity. The financial and psychological impact would’ve been major.

Simona, Sarah's mum

TALKING ABOUT EVOLUTION

In a normal year, children, young people and parents facing cancer experience incredible isolation; the pandemic meant this loneliness was even harder. We pride ourselves on the quality of our face-to-face social care support, but our tried and tested ways of being there for people were gone overnight.

We didn’t let that stop us. For years we have relied solely on face-to-face services, but 2020 forced us to step outside of our comfort zone and completely re-evaluate how we deliver support. From online chat to social media and, most ambitiously, a new fully developed digital social care model, we made some big and brave changes, radically changing the way we work.

But we didn’t want to lose human connection, so our social workers used tools like WhatsApp messaging to talk to young people alone on hospital wards, and were on the end of the phone when parents were emotional and frustrated that they couldn’t be by their child’s bedside.

We got creative, putting on online craft sessions, group chats to help with loneliness and our first virtual art show for World Cancer Day. Our online chat service was open every day, and our website and social media channels were busier than ever, as a trusted way for families to find up-to-date information about issues like shielding, during a chaotic and confusing time.

Maisie talks about how her social worker helped her with school work virtually

It made a real difference. People we supported during the pandemic told us that as a direct result of our services:

69%

felt able to manage their emotional and mental health

63%

felt less isolated

53%

felt able to manage their day-to-day life

67%

felt able to manage financial challenges.

Making radical changes not only meant we could continue to deliver our services, but our new digital service model now actually means we can support more people than ever before, no matter where they are in the UK. That’s a massive step forward in our mission, despite the most difficult year in the charity’s history.

Chapter 2: How we rose to the challenge

FUNDRAISING WENT VIRTUAL

Our supporters are a force to be reckoned with. During a time when children and young people with cancer really needed them, they stepped up. They took their fundraising virtual, like grandparents Jenni and Nick who didn’t let lockdown stop them from walking 1,400 miles on treadmills and local streets.

We had to take a big leap into testing new things, like launching our first TV advert to reach new people and streaming on Twitch, with Player vs Cancer. We knew some things could flop, but we had to try everything and have faith.

And Team Young Lives didn't let us down: in April’s virtual 2.6 Challenge, 164 brilliant supporters raised £55,097 for families facing cancer. Then in September, we were amazed when people across the UK who took part in our Facebook Burpee Challenge raised over £100,000.

Our corporate partners went above and beyond. Morrisons did incredible things, such as helping us get priority food parcels to families, even redeploying some of our shop staff. All this while still amazingly raising over £2.9 million. People’s Postcode Lottery responded to the crisis by raising over £1.4 million, while even those partners who had to close their businesses were quick to start fundraising again as soon as possible.

The 2.6 Challenge - Save the UK's charities
1,500 burpees in September challenge
Fundraiser 1
Fundraiser 4
Fundaiser 3

FIGHTING TO BE HEARD

In April 2020, the chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a £750 million support package for charities. Then nothing happened. After the big announcement, charities were left waiting – Young Lives vs Cancer included. Despite constantly asking, we heard nothing.

Then nothing happened. After the big announcement, charities were left waiting – Young Lives vs Cancer included. Despite constantly asking, we heard nothing.

In stepped badass teen and campaigner Helen, who we’d supported after her cancer diagnosis in 2016. “I decided to tweet and write to my own MP, Boris Johnson (!), and urge him to support Young Lives vs Cancer’s work in the difficult time.

“I wasn’t going to give up, I worked with the team to keep the pressure on. Then in November, I was proud to attend a video meeting with the prime minister himself.”

Despite Helen’s continuous fight, many meetings with MPs, thousands of incredible supporters and NHS partners signing open letters asking for government support for our frontline services, we never received anything.

“One year on and we are still none the wiser as to how bids for funding were made. We tried everything: contacting civil servants, MPs asking questions in parliament and still received no straight answer from the government. Just radio silence,” said Rachel Kirby-Rider, Chief Executive.

It was a big blow. Children and young people deserve better. We’re determined to keep getting their voices heard – we're not backing down.

Early in 2020, while there were scenes of groceries being stockpiled, we discovered that some children and young people we support had been missed from the government’s vulnerable lists, even though their families had been advised to shield indoors to protect them from infection. We acted quickly, raising the issue with NHS partners and were pleased to get agreement for our social workers to become an official referral body so they could organise priority shopping slots and get families added for vital support like medication deliveries.

MAKING TOUGH DECISIONS

CEO Rachel Kirby Rider on the restructure of Young Lives vs Cancer

CEO Rachel Kirby Rider on the restructure of Young Lives vs Cancer

RISING TO THE CHALLENGE

With travel restricted and families separated across the country, we absolutely had to find a way to keep as many of our 10 Homes from Home open as possible in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Parents needed a free place to stay close to hospital while their child was having cancer treatment more than ever.

But it wasn’t going to be easy. Our Homes staff had to quickly roll out risk assessments, health and safety cleaning protocols and Covid-19 regulations. They worked side by side with local hospital NHS staff to make sure our protocols were in line, which meant all homes had to run on reduced capacity, with parents self-isolating in their rooms. The priority was to keep everyone safe, thinking always about protecting children who could be vulnerable to infection.

Lorraine, Southampton Home from Home manager

Lorraine, Southampton Home from Home manager

Through it all, our staff showed the most incredible courage and personal sacrifice. They were there each morning on the frontline and thanks to them, 170 families had a free place to stay to be with their child on the ward.

For our 800 volunteers, it was a difficult year with many unable to do their usual volunteering. But community is so important to us all, so like everyone we took to Zoom for meet-ups, working hard to make sure everyone felt connected.

Incredible 89-year-old Thelma from Devon has volunteered in a Young Lives vs Cancer charity shop for over 25 years and the effect of lockdown made life tough.

“I first got involved because I lost my husband to cancer and I was very down, my doctor suggested I get myself out there and volunteer. Covid-19 hasn’t treated me very well. And the pandemic hasn’t done the shop any favours either. I love working at the shop and I love even more what it stands for.”

When we were able to reopen eight of our charity shops, our volunteers were ready and eager, setting them up safely in line with all the restrictions.

People like Thelma, who never lost faith and were there every time the shop doors opened again, are what makes Team Young Lives so special. And to them, we give a very big elbow bump.

Helen told us what it was like when the second lockdown hit

Helen told us what it was like when the second lockdown hit

Chapter 3: Becoming Young Lives vs Cancer

WHAT NOW?

2020 quickly showed us that we needed a focused strategy addressing the most important needs of children, young people and families, that enabled us to adapt to the constantly changing world. So we published a new strategy called 'What now?'

Responding to what children, young people and families were telling us, What Now? lays out our strategic goals and focus for the next two years:

  • Reach more of the people who need us

  • Focus on their needs

  • Make sure the charity can continue to grow back sustainably – so we can work towards our ambition that no family will face cancer alone.

To do this, we knew we had to keep being brave. We couldn’t continue to let our name stand in the way of people understanding what we do and how we can support them.

It had to change. But it wasn’t a decision we took lightly. Over the last two years we’ve talked to those who know us best, including young people and families we have supported, our founders, fundraisers, staff and volunteers, and done lots of research.

And the results were clear: changing our name would increase people’s understanding of what the charity does, how many people would donate and most importantly make us easier to find if you need support. We had to go for it, both for children and young people living with cancer today and in the future.

So here we are. Young Lives vs Cancer. We’ve been through a lot in the last year. But it’s nothing compared to the families we support have had to cope with – and still do.

JOINING FORCES

We stepped into the new year with more determination than ever to make sure families get the best support possible, no matter what. Putting young people first, we knew that three forces were better than one and established an official partnership with Teenage Cancer Trust and Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust. Working together means we can all play to our strengths, reduce duplication and be more efficient, so that between us, we can increase the impact we have on a young person with cancer’s life.

In September our poll revealed that 90% of young people said they’d experienced treatment alone in hospital during the pandemic. It just wasn’t right – being told you have cancer and treatment is scary enough, you need someone there by your side.

So, with Teenage Cancer Trust, we launched our #Hand2Hold campaign, fighting for young people with cancer, wherever it’s safe, to have a loved one with them at hospital appointments. We shouted loud, with national media coverage and hundreds of supporters signing a petition to get the issue on the government’s radar.

Following a meeting with the cancer minister, together we created guidance so young people could better understand current NHS guidelines and their rights. We’re still working hard, lobbying all UK cancer ministers – no young person should face their cancer alone, regardless of where they’re being treated.

What are you most looking forward to now lockdown is over?

BRAVE NOT PERFECT

In our previous impact reports, we featured a section called ‘Hands up we're not perfect’. But after everything we’ve learned in 2020/21, we now know we don’t want to be perfect. We will be brave. Brave enough to keep striving for more, but also brave enough to be transparent when we’ve got stuff wrong. Because that’s the only way we will make sure we can increase the impact we have as a charity.

We didn’t get everything right in 2020/21 and we want to do better.

We’re more than what we do: how we do things matters. It was a year of intense learning guided by our values – Bravery, Integrity, Confidence, and being One Team – but the events of 2020 brought into sharp focus changes we need to make to really live those values.

  1. In our previous strategy we said we’d improve diversity and inclusion, but had no clear plans about how. This has changed, significantly, but it should have been sooner. In 2020, we took a long hard look in the mirror to examine our culture, practices and policies in light of the essential public discussions about racism, homophobia and misogyny worldwide. We recruited a dynamic head of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, and have started to act. We know we’re only just beginning this change, but we’ll continue to challenge ourselves and the system we operate within. We’ll continue to be #BraveNotPerfect. Read our statement of intent.

  2. The climate crisis is real, and we all have a part to play in creating the future we want to see. In 2021 we have begun a project to understand our true ecological impact, and what we need to do to become an environmentally sustainable organisation.

  3. Our staff fought hard to provide care and support to every child, young person and parent possible during the pandemic. But inevitably 2020’s restrictions meant we supported slightly fewer people. We’re not just going to accept this. We’re trying to understand where there are blockages in the system and how we can navigate them, because we believe every child or young person with cancer has the right to age-specific support and we are absolutely determined to keep going until we reach everyone who needs us.

THANK YOU

Thanks to the incredible supporters, staff, families, partners and volunteers that make up Team Young Lives, we didn’t survive 2020/21, we came out of it fighting. Supporting families throughout the pandemic has shown just how vital our frontline services are, working alongside the NHS. And so, we couldn’t be more grateful for all the people around the UK who make them happen.

There’s no disputing this was the toughest fundraising year we’ve ever faced, but our supporters and corporate partners showed astounding generosity exceeding our expectations raising £22.2 million.

Despite the challenges the pandemic threw our way, we learned, delivered when families needed us and made lasting improvements. We’re delighted to return to face-to-face support, but we now also have a digital social care team that means we’re able to support more children, young people and families than ever before, no matter where they are in the UK. That’s so exciting.

We couldn’t be more honoured to have such incredible people on our team. We’ll take the overwhelming kindness, bravery and solidarity we saw and call 2020/21 a year to be immensely proud of. Whatever the next year brings, we will face it all, together. And we’ll always do what’s right for children and young people with cancer.

With thanks to