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Norwich mum backs children's cancer charity as it says parents struggle financially

PUBLISHED: 06:30 13 December 2011

Active Norfolk's Olly the Elephant and six-year-old Jack Smith and his mum Gayle launch the CLIC Sargent Norwich Santa Run and Reindeer Dash fundraising event this year. Photo by Simon Finlay

Active Norfolk's Olly the Elephant and six-year-old Jack Smith and his mum Gayle launch the CLIC Sargent Norwich Santa Run and Reindeer Dash fundraising event this year. Photo by Simon Finlay

Archant © 2011 01603 772434

A Norwich mum is backing a charity's campaign to raise awareness of how parents of children with cancer can be left struggling to make ends meet.

A new report by children’s cancer charity CLIC Sargent has found that children with cancer in East Anglia travel an average of 109 miles a day, up to five times a week, for crucial treatment at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.

The charity says this means parents of children with cancer are struggling to cope with the unexpected costs of travel, as well as extra costs in childcare, food and accommodation while their child has treatment, with 66pc of those they surveyed turning to borrowing to make ends meet.

Six-year-old Jack Smith from Heartsease was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in August 2008 and underwent five months of intensive chemotherapy as part of his treatment. The Heartsease Primary School pupil is now off-treatment and doing well.

Jack’s mum Gayle Larkman, of Redfern Road, said CLIC Sargent social worker Vicky Whitney had helped her to get settled in social housing. She said: “I was living on benefits at the time and living week by week. It was terrifying not to have any money, but that’s where Kath, a CLIC Sargent social worker, stepped in. She met with us when Jack was diagnosed and CLIC Sargent gave us a £200 cheque straightaway to help with those extra costs.

“I was homeless for a while when Jack was starting treatment and was sleeping at Addenbrooke’s. Norwich council ended up relocating us to different places and we ended up in social housing. Moving around was really traumatic, on top of dealing with Jack’s treatment. Vicky really helped to sort out my housing problems and dealt with the council and I can’t thank her enough for that.”

The report, Counting the Costs of Cancer, was published to mark Childhood Cancer Awareness Month (December). Parents and young people told the charity that they spent on average £367 and £277 respectively on cancer-related expenses every month, and with treatment lasting up to three years, the bills soon mounted up.

Unpaid leave from work, travel costs and care for siblings are some of the additional costs that families face once cancer treatment begins, and CLIC Sargent is concerned that Government reforms will restrict families’ options to financial support through the benefits system.

CLIC Sargent social work team leader Julie Charlesworth, based at Addenbrooke’s in Cambridge, said: “Everyone is suffering in this economic climate but parents of children with cancer are amongst the hardest hit. The extra costs can be significant. It’s shocking to hear that some families felt driven to debt in order to get through financially.

“We’re dependent on the generous support of the public and other donors to fund our vital work to support young cancer patients, but the money we raise can only be part of the solution. We want to work with the government and other organisations to find better ways of ensuring young people and children with cancer, and their families, have the financial support they need.”

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