At the risk of going down a political route, I was dismayed to see a continued lack of support for the charity sector in this weeks budget, in particular, no funding or help in cancer services across the UK.
We are all too aware of the financial cost this pandemic has caused alongside the desperate loss of lives and livelihoods. But, I am not convinced the ‘powers that be’ in any government truly understand the value of the role charities and other voluntary organisations play in supporting and providing public services that so many millions rely on.
As we emerge from this stage of the pandemic and look to rebuild our economy, charities and millions of volunteers will play just as an important part as business development and economic growth will. The charity sector saves the state billions, a bill that will need to be picked up by the state or thousands of people will suffer. If charities have to close down, who will be there to help rebuild this country from the crisis we are all facing? It doesn’t matter if you are young or old; suffering from cancer, dementia or mental health issues; struggling to keep a roof over your head or facing any of the many social needs people face, charities have #nevermoreneeded
When The Tom Bowdidge Youth Cancer Foundation funds a project, we are often asked what would happen if we didn’t fund it. If we consider the hospital rooms, people often think these are or should be funded by the NHS and government money. Sadly this is not the case. Some of our room transformations have been borne out of boxrooms or spaces that have been used to collect junk. With our input we can create a private space where young people can have appointments with consultants, socialise with other young cancer patients or hang out with others to watch a film.
Some spaces are provided by the NHS but with basic furniture, stark clinical walls, an uninviting place to be. With input from a charity like ours, we can provide bespoke furniture such as a treatment chair that is comfortable whilst the patient is receiving their chemotherapy. We provide foldaway sofas so that parents can stay with their teenager. Wall art and mood lighting helps add to a relaxed environment but is only funded from charity money. You may think this is all very luxurious and lovely if you can afford it but it’s not totally necessary. I cannot stress how important the environment is around you when you are a young person facing cancer treatment. These youngsters are often numb, anxious and scared following a diagnosis and if we can provide an environment where these issues are helped, then it is worth every penny. The pandemic has only increased their anxiety as they find themselves more isolated than ever and often alone.
A few years ago we transformed a room for 19 -24-year-olds. It had been a junk room where used equipment was dumped. The space was made into a chill-out zone for these young people to watch films, make drinks, relax and socialise. One young girl told us it meant she could get out of bed and the prison she felt she was in when on the ward.
As Tom once said ‘teenagers are a different breed’. They are not children and they are not quite adults. Therefore why should they be treated on wards where they do not fit in. We are so lucky to have a range of specialist units where teenagers and young adults can be treated but this often involves long journeys and extended time away from home and not everyone has the chance to be treated on one. This is why our work focuses on creating age-appropriate spaces in local hospitals. Many hospitals would agree there is a huge need for this but know there are no funds.
This is just a mere snapshot of the work we do as a charity that would not take place if we, or other organisations didn’t fund it. We must not forget our young people and let them down. We have a very important role to play as we have #nevermoreneeded.