Cancer society cuts - Danger of negative reaction

HAVING shot itself in the foot by peremptorily axing financial support for families affected by cancer, the Irish Cancer Society has risked compounding the controversy by the way it has gone about announcing its partial reversal of the contentious decision to slash hardship funding for cancer victims.

In what must be greeted as a most welcome development, the society has now announced it is reversing its decision “to discontinue financial support for the families of children with cancer”.

The alacrity of this U-turn has rightly been applauded by the families of children with cancer and deserves to be warmly welcomed by the public.

Furthermore, the society goes on to say that the “fund for children will now be maintained and the financial support for families of children with cancer will now continue”.

In reality, however, the furore which erupted on Tuesday when news first broke that sweeping cutbacks would come into force tomorrow did not relate solely to financial support of families with children.

The proposed cuts were much wider and went much deeper than that.

But, inexplicably, what yesterday’s reversal statement omitted was that financial support for adults would still be scrapped by the society.

Apart from an oblique inference, there was no direct reference to the fact these swingeing cutbacks would still go ahead as far as the families of adults with cancer were concerned.

From a public relations viewpoint, the society has handled this affair ineptly and unprofessionally.

Presumably, the intention of the statement was not to further muddy the waters.

But like it or not, that appears to be the end result. Most right minded people have been shocked to learn that while hardship grants amounting to over €1.5m were being slashed, salaries and wages amounting to over €7m remained untouched, although that issue will now be examined.

Yet, the reality is that charities have to be run and people have to be paid.

Nonetheless, there is a widespread perception that wage and pension cutbacks should have accompanied reductions in hardship grants.

Were it not for the contribution made by the society’s advocacy manager, Kathleen O’Meara, to the resulting public debate, the reaction to these developments could have been even more damaging.

That would be a tragedy for those needing the support of this excellent charitable organisation.

Arguably, it has been doing the State’s job while successive governments have been content to stand idly by.

The society will now have to find €200,000 to fund hardship support for families of children with cancer.

While those families will naturally be highly relieved at the latest reversal, there is a danger the public could react negatively to the wider cutbacks.

At a time when the State is abdicating its responsibilities in so many fields, that would be counter-productive in the extreme.

Cancer is a major national health issue and the public should not have to rely so heavily on voluntary contributions to fund the fight against this disease.

Not to mention community fundraising for vital hospital equipment and then having to pay Vat on it.

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