Irish Cancer Society to stop hardship payments
Ireland's leading cancer charity is scrapping hardship payments to patients struggling with the cost of living as they battle the disease.
The Irish Cancer Society said it can no longer afford the well-used scheme, which 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.
The charity said demand for financial help had soared since the economic crash eight years ago, forcing it to choose between the scheme and the other free services it provides.
"We greatly regret having to close this fund but unfortunately the demand has become too big for us to manage," a spokeswoman said.
The financial support programme issued once-off payments to cancer patients and their families if they were unable to pay for food, fuel, home help, respite, childcare as well as 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 the scheme will end on January 31.
"As a charity, which is funded over 90% by the public, we have found ourselves unable to meet the huge growth in demand for financial support from cancer patients," the spokeswoman said.
"Closing the financial support programme was a difficult choice to make, but against the background of a drop in fundraised income in 2015, we were forced to choose between the free and unique services which we provide to patients, and the financial support fund, demand for which was growing at a rate which could have put our free services at risk."
The charity said it will continue to support financially struggling cancer patients with advice on other government and voluntary schemes.
Cancer patients can lose up to 17,000 euro a year in their income while undergoing treatment, a study by the charity last year showed.
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.
"It is not possible for the Irish Cancer Society alone to alleviate this financial burden which a cancer diagnosis brings," the spokeswoman added.
"As a result of the findings of this survey, the society is taking on an advocacy campaign to have cancer patients have immediate access to a medical card once diagnosed; to lobby hospitals treating cancer patients for free parking for them and their families; to reduce the Drugs Payment Scheme limit to 85 euro from 114 euro and to have community welfare officers recognise the catastrophic impact on self-employed patients of a cancer diagnosis and to ensure they are financially supported."