Posted on Monday 29 November 2021

in News

Young Lives vs Cancer announces emergency winter grant for families facing cancer in response to panic of rising living costs  

THE UK’s leading charity for children and young people living with cancer has introduced a new grant to help families facing cancer cope with rising living costs this winter.

The Winter Emergency Grant has been introduced following serious concerns from Young Lives vs Cancer that some families it supports are struggling to afford the rise of cost of petrol, gas and food – all vital essentials for any child or young person on cancer treatment.

The grant will help families for whatever hardship they may be facing – and go towards essential winter costs, which could be heating a home, giving a child with cancer a warm coat or for putting petrol in the car to get to life-saving treatment.

Rachel Kirby-Rider, Chief Executive at Young Lives vs Cancer, said: “Families are hitting financial rock bottom, especially with the cuts to Universal Credit too. The sad truth is our social workers are seeing how grim it has become for families right now as we enter the winter months.

“We’ve listened and we are not prepared to stand by a moment longer. We know many families we support are really struggling to afford the rising costs of living. We cannot sit by and let families who are already devastated with all that cancer throws at them, struggle even more this winter. Having a child or a teenager with cancer costs hundreds of pounds a month extra for the families we support. With the costs of living rocketing in the UK, the situation is getting even harder for them.

“It is vital young cancer patients are kept warm, fed well, and can get to hospital. No parent should have to choose between putting petrol in the car to get to treatment or having food in the fridge at home.

“The impact additional burdens and rising bills can have on mental health whilst going through cancer can be devastating. This money will help to take some of that stress away for families this winter.”

Mum Kali Gilbert, from Bridgwater in Somerset, knows the financial struggles of having a child on chemotherapy, and has been supported by Young Lives vs Cancer since her daughter Tayen was diagnosed with Neurofibromatosis Type One (NF1) aged 22 months old. The genetic condition causes tumours, usually benign, to grow along nerves. Tayen, now 10, has faced years of treatment, surgeries and endless trips to hospital.

Kali, who needed to give up work to support Tayen, said: “Treatment has had a massive financial impact. We have never financially recovered, we just keep going.

“This year we’ve been silently panicking. It’s a constant juggling act trying to cover bills and concentrate on Tayen’s needs. Although Tayen is currently not on treatment, we are still trying to recover from the financial costs of Tayen’s most recent brain surgery in September.

“It’s about an hour’s drive to the hospital and back again. It was a week-long trip for that surgery and Tayen’s dad had to take the week off work too. It was around that time people were queuing for fuel. I remember feeling lucky we had filled the petrol tank in preparation for getting Tayen to her surgery as it could have quite easily been a disaster for us.”

Alongside worries for filling the car with petrol, Kali, a full-time carer to Tayen, and her husband Kev, a lorry driver, have concerns for the winter ahead and affording the rising gas and electricity bills.

Kali said: “It is so draining to be mindful of money when you’re supporting your child, without all the extra news of rising costs.

“Because of Tayen’s chemotherapy side effects, she really feels the cold, so we always need to have the house well heated. We’ve noticed the increase in our gas and electricity bills and it’s not even winter yet. It’s gone up dramatically and we’re always feeling like we’re in arrears.

“Tayen has baths as the warm water helps with the pain she is feeling, but there is a cost to heating up that water – and sometimes Tayen can have three baths in a day. Not just because of the therapy of the water, but because it calms her and she is in pain and has daily vomiting episodes.

“Tayen only attends school for two hours, twice a week. And so there is the added strain that we are at home all day that adds to the cost of bills using gas and electricity. Everything just feels really overwhelming – and on top of Covid too.

“It’s the unexpected hospital trips between surgeries and treatment we struggle with too. There is always the odd trip to hospital and we’ll be running low on fuel and need to find the money from somewhere because our child has to be seen by a specialist. The hospital isn’t down the road. It’s an hour away. It’s just a massive, draining, juggling act.”

"This winter is different. And even worse. We’re facing a situation we haven’t before, amid a pandemic too."

Young Lives vs Cancer has long campaigned for governments to help families with the costs of treatment. So far, only the Scottish Government has helped with the introduction of a travel fund.

Helen Gravestock, Associate Director for Policy, Influencing and Voice at the charity said: “We have been working tirelessly for years to increase awareness of cancer costs. But this winter is different. And even worse. We’re facing a situation we haven’t before, amid a pandemic too. We said it before and we will say it again, cancer costs. And that’s why our emergency winter grant will help the families of children and young people our charity supports this winter. We wish there wasn’t a need for the grant, but there is.

“We’ve been telling governments across the UK for years they need to provide for cancer costs. But our calls are still falling on deaf ears, with the exception of Scotland. The money or this grant won’t reach every person who needs it, and we know it isn’t something we will permanently be able to offer as a charity. But it’s a start. We’re diverting funds that could be spent elsewhere to provide vital support, but we’ve made the decision because we believe it’s the right thing to do.

“We hope by the end of winter governments across the UK will stop ignoring children and young people with cancer and will be there to step up and help continue this vital support for families. That’s all we want for Christmas.”

If you are being supported by Young Lives vs Cancer, you can apply for the Winter Emergency Grant by talking to your Young Lives vs Cancer Social Worker or by contacting our Social Care Team here.

You can help support Young Lives vs Cancer this winter by donating here.

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