Three youth cancer charities enter formal partnership

The organisations say the move will enable them to offer better support, but is not a precursor to a merger

Clic Sargent, the Teenage Cancer Trust and the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust have announced a formal partnership to help the charities offer more support to young people with cancer.

The collaboration will involve the sharing of resources and information, creating clear pathways to refer young people to each other’s services, and joint campaigning.

While the charities all support children and young people with cancer and their families, each offers a different type of support. Teenage Cancer Trust provides specialist nursing care and emotional support; Clic Sargent provides a social work service for the young people and their families, as well as grants to support families during treatment; and the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust helps those who have been affected by cancer to rebuild their lives through sailing and other outdoor activities.

The chief executives of the three charities told Third Sector the partnership would allow the charities to ensure there were no gaps between the complementary services they offer.

Frank Fletcher, chief executive of the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust, said: “What this partnership does is ensure young people and their families don’t fall through the net, and because there are very clear referral pathways at a structural level the support is there all the way through their cancer experience.”

This week Clic Sargent and Teenage Cancer Trust launched a joint campaign, Hand2Hold, which aims to raise awareness of the experiences of young people with cancer during the pandemic, such as hearing that they have cancer or facing treatment alone.

Rachel Kirby-Rider, chief executive of Clic Sargent, said the organisations were trying to align the way they worked on policy and influencing to achieve more traction “so that we can ensure that we amplify the voices of young people and ensure they are having their voices heard”.

The three organisations have worked together informally in the past but, Kate Collins, chief executive of the Teenage Cancer Trust said, the arrangements had often varied geographically and depended on the relationships in a particular area.

And, she said, the pandemic had made the situation more urgent.

“The response from our frontline teams has been: ‘Oh this makes so much sense’,” she said.

“As organisations and as leaders, it's important that we say it’s OK that we work together – in fact it’s expected, because this is what children and young people with cancer need.

“We have to ask how we can be greater than the sum of our parts – it might feel a bit radical, but we have to face it that there isn’t enough money to go around and we’re all taking financial hits. If organisations start retreating and competing, that isn’t going to work.”

The organisations said they did not have plans for a joint fundraising scheme, but Collins said it was a possibility in the future because funders and donors were keen to fund the cause rather than the organisations.

But all three leaders said the partnership was not a precursor to a merger.

Collins said: “There are some questions that merger is the answer to, but I don’t think it’s the ubiquitous answer to every question. The question for us is: ‘How will we ensure that the individual, often very different, needs of young people are met?’

“And one monolith organisation would not necessarily be best placed to do that.”

Kirby-Rider said: “Part of the problem in the sector is that we've associated growth with income, rather than impact.

“The pandemic has driven that message home that we need to get our act together and stop trying to dominate when actually collaboration, partnership and integration is much more helpful.

“We have a responsibility to really reflect and focus on our core purpose, and understand what we’re here to do and what impact we can make in the most efficient way.”

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