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Cancer Focus Northern Ireland to furlough staff as coronavirus hits fundraising

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Decision: Roisin Foster

Decision: Roisin Foster

Decision: Roisin Foster

A local cancer charity has said it will have to furlough the majority of its staff as it faces an 80% decrease in fundraised income this year because of coronavirus.

Yesterday Cancer Focus Northern Ireland announced that only externally funded staff are among those left able to work at the charity.

Cancer Focus NI, which celebrated 50 years working to reduce the impact of cancer on people's lives here in 2019, said it is 90% dependent on its fundraising activities.

The charity provides care and support services for patients and their families.

It offers a range of cancer prevention programmes to help people lessen their risk of getting cancer, funds scientific research into the causes and treatment of the disease, and campaigns for better health policy to protect our community and its future.

A range of charities have expressed concern over their future as their fundraising efforts have been halted due to social distancing restrictions and other factors. Cancer Focus now only provides its family support service, a reduced counselling service, support to stop smoking and skin cancer prevention work.

Roisin Foster, the charity's chief executive, said: "Cancer Focus NI is 90% dependent on our fundraising activities. With fundraising events unable to take place and our 13 charity shops closed, income for the charity has reduced to seriously low levels.

"In order to best ensure the charity's survival we have had no choice but to cease all work that is not externally funded and furlough our remaining employees.

"Many of our staff have said they are more than happy to continue to provide services while furloughed, but the Government's job retention scheme expressly forbids this. It's regrettable that the scheme will pay people not to provide services that patients need so much."

The charity's patient support services have been particularly badly affected, with 75% of services being cut. These include its nurse-led telephone helpline, art therapy, volunteer driving and bra fitting services.

"Cancer patients are already under great stress, worried about treatment being delayed or cancelled for very understandable reasons," said Ms Foster.

"We are deeply concerned that we have no option but to reduce services when people need it most. And the lack of support services throws even greater pressure back on the NHS.

"We're urging the Government to finalise a support package for the voluntary sector as soon as possible, so we can plan for how we're going to come out the other end of this crisis and continue our vital work."

Last month the Northern Ireland Hospice expressed concern over its future as fundraising efforts were halted.

Belfast Telegraph