Written evidence submitted by CLIC Sargent (CYP0028)
CLIC Sargent is the UK’s leading cancer charity for children and young people. When cancer strikes young lives CLIC Sargent helps families limit the damage cancer causes beyond their health, providing nurses, social workers, financial grants and a place to stay during treatment in our Homes from Home next to hospitals. We fight tirelessly for young cancer patients – we’re there giving emotional, financial and practical support. Last year we reached over 23,000 young cancer patients and their families across the UK, and grants totaling over £1.2 million were given to help young cancer patients and their families cope with the costs of cancer.
Everyday across the UK, CLIC Sargent’s frontline care teams are working with young people with cancer to navigate the mental health impact of a cancer diagnosis and months of treatment. Our social workers are working hard to provide the emotional support that young people with cancer need, as well as their families. They liaise with schools or employers to try and limit the emotional damage a cancer diagnosis can cause. A cancer diagnosis at that age affects every aspect of a young person’s life, from their social life, education to employment. CLIC Sargent’s Hidden Costs report (2017) found that:
• 79% of young people felt cancer had a serious impact on their emotional wellbeing
• 70% of young people experienced depression during their cancer treatment
• 90% of young people experienced anxiety during their cancer treatment
• 83% of young people experienced loneliness during their cancer treatment
• 42% of young people experienced panic attacks during treatment
CLIC Sargent also found that 41% of young people did not access support for the mental health impact of cancer, diagnosis and treatment. Reasons for this include a lack of available and appropriate services, the cost involved in accessing private treatment and a lack of information of support on offer. We call on the Committee when considering Government progress and any further actions taken, to urge the Government to also consider unique support for young people with cancer.
CLIC Sargent believe that access to evidence based mental health interventions for young people with cancer should be part of the treatment pathway if needed, and provided consistently across the UK. Furthermore, young people reported that keeping in touch with family and friends (80%), talking to others with similar experiences (73%), and access to the internet in hospital (72%) were the most helpful priorities during treatment.
Understandably the coronavirus pandemic has added increased pressure for young people with cancer. Our research providing a snapshot of the impact our families faced during this time found that 52% of young people with cancer felt as though they were not coping with the situation, and that the pandemic caused a significant amount of additional stress and worry.
“I’ve been isolated and not able to have my day-to-day normal life meaning it’s been harder to cope. Obviously if I was having my normal routine, I’d have more distractions.’ – Young person with cancer
We have also heard that some young people with cancer have experienced different aspects of their care alone in hospital, from hearing their diagnosis to receiving treatment alone for up to weeks at a time. This has been a significant challenge for young cancer patients and together with Teenage Cancer Trust, CLIC Sargent has launched a campaign calling for a Government commitment that where possible no young person faces cancer alone.
Throughout the pandemic CLIC Sargent’s social care teams have seen an increase in demand for support from young people with cancer struggling to navigate their diagnosis while being isolated from their friends and family.
We welcome the opportunity to respond to this inquiry on children and young people’s mental health and urge the inquiry to also take consideration of mental health support for those living with long term health issues. We believe that as the Government move forward with priorities for children and young people’s mental health they should seriously consider a specialist section for how they aim to improve the mental health of children and young people with cancer. In addition to this, small changes such as free WiFi in the Principal Treatment Centre’s could go a long way in helping young people to feel connected with their peers during a time where they can feel increasingly isolated. We would welcome the opportunity to support with this and happy to be contacted.
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