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Cancer Society chief takes pay cut amid hardship payments axe backlash

Published 15/01/2016

John McCormack, chief excutive of the Irish Cancer Society
John McCormack, chief excutive of the Irish Cancer Society

The chief executive of Ireland's leading cancer charity is to take a 10,000 euro pay cut after a backlash over his scrapping of a financial hardship scheme for patients with the disease.

The Irish Cancer Society's John McCormack said it was a personal decision to take the 7% cut, which will see his salary fall from 145,000 euro a year to 135,000 euro .

Earlier this week, the charity said it was axing hardship payments to cancer patients because it can no longer afford them.

A day later, in the face of mounting anger over the cutback, it partially reversed its decision, but only reinstated financial aid for children suffering from the disease.

The hardship scheme for adults ends on January 31.

It helped thousands every year to pay their everyday bills while undergoing medical treatment.

Last year alone, the fund gave out 1.8 million euro in payments to 2,500 cancer sufferers, 200 of whom were children.

Mr McCormack said his pay cut was a personal contribution to efforts by the charity to maintain payments for children.

"I greatly regret that it has become necessary to close the Financial Support Programme for adults with cancer, and I sincerely apologise for the upset that this decision has caused but, considering that we are not funded by the state and that we run a number of really important and free services for people with cancer, unfortunately it was necessary to do so," he said.

Mr McCormack made an appeal for more donations from the public.

The move to end the hardship payments scheme provoked criticism from some that salary costs at the charity were not cut enough.

As well as Mr McCormack's 145,000 euro annual salary, 12 other staff earn more than 70,000 euro, according to accounts for 2014.

The charity said it has already reduced its 7.4 million euro pay-bill by three-quarters of a million.

Cost-cutting measures include not covering maternity leave, the non-filling of a number of vacancies and a small number of staff redundancies, it said.

The Financial Support Programme issued one-off payments to cancer patients and their families if they were unable to pay for food, fuel, home help, respite, childcare or travel and accommodation costs linked to their treatment.

The payments were capped at 1,000 euro per application, or 2,500 euro over three years for the family of a child with cancer.

The Irish Cancer Society said it will work to find savings elsewhere to raise around 200,000 euro needed for the hardship payments to children this year.

Cancer patients can lose up to 17,000 euro a year in income while undergoing treatment, a study by the charity found last year.

The Real Cost Of Cancer report revealed sufferers had to come up with as much as 862 euro extra every month for costs associated with their illness.

Those who are forced out of work or who have to work less lose as much as 1,400 euro a month.

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