Charities which support us also need our help - Christine Jardine
I was at a coffee morning with some friends on Friday.
Virtually of course.
It’s an annual thing which in the past I’ve spent in a local gallery, at a friend’s house or in a community centre in my constituency.
But this year it felt particularly important to observe the tradition of our Macmillan Coffee Morning however we had to do it.
Because as well as the usual chit-chat about Bake Off and how will they do this year on Strictly there was another conversation that none of us ever wanted, or expected to have.
Macmillan, like so many other charities, organisations and employers is facing a Covid-related funding crisis.
They have just announced that they will have to cut 310 jobs from next month. That is one sixth of their entire workforce.
When you consider that this is a charity which is the country’s second most popular behind the British Heart Foundation, last year raised £27.5m with the coffee morning, and estimates that it provides personal support to almost 2 million people a year, you begin to see the scale of the problem.
Put it another way.
If Macmillan has been hit to this extent what is happening across the third sector?
And who is filling the gap that will undoubtedly be left if this fantastic institution is forced to cut its cloth a little differently?
There can be few of us who have not seen, or experienced through loved ones, the compassionate and professional care they offer in often the most heart-breaking of circumstances.
Their work is most commonly associated with end of life cancer care but they also support around half a million carers of people with cancer or affected by it.
If, like me, you often console yourself with that “Oh I’ll be fine” thing just pause for a moment and think that one in two people – half the population – in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime.
Suddenly it all feels even closer to home.
But one of the most worrying things for me is that the service which Macmillan and those other charities whose services we cherish might somehow be overlooked, or fall victim to the assumption that they will of course be fine.
Guide Dogs for the Blind, Marie Curie, the Samaritans, the British Red Cross and many others who are so much part of the fabric of life in this country that I often wonder if we remember that they are, in fact charities.
They are not provided to us by the state but by our own and others’ efforts. That is not to suggest that the bond between the British public and those organisations is anything other than extraordinarily strong.
It is also an enormous source of pride.
Every October We Go Sober, in November the guys grow moustaches and around a month before Christmas we all dig deep for one of the biggest national causes of them all ...
Children in Need.
Who could forget the £39 million raised by Captain Sir Tom Moore by walking laps of his garden in the days leading up to his 100th birthday.
But if Covid-19 is beginning to bite now, how far will it eat into our ability to help once the full economic impact is felt?
On the days when I have been able to walk to my office to check the mail or inspect the safety work undertaken in preparation for a mid-September re-opening that never happened I walk past my favourite charity shop.
I have thought about the number of times over the past three years that I have popped in there ,or to one of the others along the road my office is on, in search of a particular knick knack that I knew only they would have.
At the moment some are still closed.
I have no doubt the strength of our commitment to each of these organisations is undimmed, but in this crisis how far will our ability to fulfil it be stretched.
This week in the commons I listened to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, outline the difficulties that the economy faces and the harsh reality that he will not be able to help everyone.
Moreover in the past few months we have all heard stories of those whose care for so many life threatening or degenerative conditions has been undermined.
Prostate cancer, bowel cancer and so many others where early diagnosis is crucial may have been allowed to develop because individuals were affected by a fear of the risk of contracting Covid and put off, or simply could not get an appointment.
As I raised my coffee cup on Friday to toast the magnificent contribution that Macmillan makes to our society I thought that this year, sadly we might need them more than e ver.
The health impact of this most unforgiving of viruses might put even more pressure on those like Macmillan providing end of life care or support just when they are themselves facing unprecedented pressure on their funding.
Perhaps when those who hold the national purse strings ponder how they will continue to support us through this crisis they will remember those charities and organisations that we cherish and take a little more of the strain to help ease their funding problems.
That way we might all be able to look forward to hosting a more traditional coffee morning next year.
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