I can, as the Father of three children, think of no worse news than for a parent to be told, by a hospital or a General Practitioner, that a child is suffering from a potentially terminal illness. That information alone, carrying with it the finality of a time span measured in a few years, months or, in some cases even weeks, is terrible and devastating. When it then becomes apparent that one or both parents may have to give up work to provide terminal care for the child the impact upon the financial circumstances of a family with, perhaps, other children, can be catastrophic
In East Kent, experiencing some of the highest levels of social deprivation and lowest incomes in the South East, the hard-cash burden added to an already devastating reality, can be unbearable. Caring for a seriously ill child often involves numerous trips to hospital, intensive feeding and cleaning and washing regimes and 24-hour monitoring. Children with severe medical conditions frequently require specialist or medical equipment not always available through the local health authority and because some of this equipment is customised or manufactured to order costs are high.
Enter REACT. (Rapid Effective Assistance for Children with potentially Terminal illness). Last year React responded to 1,232 requests for help from families across the UK and for many low-income families unable to find the necessary funds for care for their child the organisation can be the last resort. It works closely with social and medical care professionals to provide any specialist, domestic or educational material that is deemed to be a "basic essential need". This can include items such as replacement mattresses and washing machines, sensory lights, communication aids, adapted ceiling hoists and, sadly but inevitably, with funeral expenses. If they take you on they stay with you to the end.
React faces two challenges. First, there is a shortage of funding to help meet the inevitable and, in a time of economic crisis, rising demand for help and the financial support of our generous local communities in Canterbury and Thanet Districts could help to change this.
Second, many financially disadvantaged families caring for terminally ill children are unaware that React’s help is available. In spite of the shortage of funds React still needs to reach the people that it seeks to assist.
I would like to see a Lord Mayor of Canterbury and a Mayor of Margate and a Chairman of Thanet District Council adopt React as one of their chosen charities. A bit of Civic support could go a long way towards raising the profile and helping some of our neediest children.
And if you would like to know more - either to offer help or to apply for help - then you will find all of the contact details on www.reactcharity.org
or on (telephone) 0208 940 2575.