| 7.1°C Belfast

Charity urges ministers to step in with financial support

Cancer Focus NI shops have closed and staff furloughed but are still paying rent.

Close

One of Northern Ireland’s leading cancer charities has urged Stormont ministers to help save it from unprecedented financial difficulties caused by the coronavirus outbreak (Peter Byrne/PA)

One of Northern Ireland’s leading cancer charities has urged Stormont ministers to help save it from unprecedented financial difficulties caused by the coronavirus outbreak (Peter Byrne/PA)

One of Northern Ireland’s leading cancer charities has urged Stormont ministers to help save it from unprecedented financial difficulties caused by the coronavirus outbreak (Peter Byrne/PA)

One of Northern Ireland’s leading cancer charities has urged Stormont ministers to help save it from unprecedented financial difficulties caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

Cancer Focus NI shops have closed and staff furloughed but are still paying rent.

Some fundraising activities have been scrapped and others delayed until at least this autumn.

The organisation raises 90% of its money itself.

We have been in operation now for 50 years and have had good and bad days but nothing ever like thisRoisin Foster, Cancer Focus NI

Chief executive Roisin Foster said: “We have been in operation now for 50 years and have had good and bad days but nothing ever like this.”

Shops have closed after record growth in turnover in recent years.

Although staff have been furloughed, the rents still have to be paid and some agents have been more understanding than others.

Fundraising events including a Mourne mountain challenge have been halted and the Belfast Marathon, in which the charity is a lead partner, has been delayed until at least September.

Ms Foster has written to Stormont Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey and said the organisation has never really sought official support for core work before.

“We cannot manage now,” she said.

“There has been talk about a Government rescue package.

Charities like ours should not be forgottenRoisin Foster, Cancer Focus NI

“Charities like ours should not be forgotten.

“Because we have never called for help before should not mean that we are excluded now.”

The charity provides counselling and other services.

Ms Foster added: “Cancer charities in particular have been givers to rather than receivers from the NHS.”

She said she worried about the security of her organisation and the future of her skilled and committed workers.

“They are good people and very good at their jobs.

“We are doing everything we can, we have cut costs and our costs have fallen because there is no travel and little phone activity but it is about can we keep going.”

She said their reserves had been affected.

“It is being hit on every side, really.”

A spokeswoman for the Communities Department said these were difficult times and minister Deirdre Hargey was committed to doing everything that can be done to protect everyone in society who rely on vital services such as those provided by Cancer Focus NI.

“The minister is aware of the challenges facing the wider charitable sector and is working closely with community and voluntary sector groups and Executive colleagues to urgently develop funding proposals and options on how best to support the sector through this crisis.

The role of community organisations has never been more important as we seek to protect people who might be vulnerable across our communities.

“The minister has established a voluntary and community sector emergencies leadership group, which will play a vital role in supporting the most vulnerable during and after this emergency.”

PA