Cancer charities say coronavirus shortfall will set back research | Science

The UK’s best-known cancer charity has become the latest victim of the multibillion pound fundraising crisis sweeping the voluntary sector as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, warning that a shortfall of donations will set back progress on fighting the disease.

Cancer Research UK announced it is to drastically scale back its research plans after the cancellation of a range of fundraising events and the closure of charity shops meant it will lose up to a quarter of its donated income over the next 12 months – about £120m.

Meanwhile, Macmillan Cancer Support, the UK’s second biggest cancer charity, said the wipeout in fundraising events meant it now expected to lose up to half its fundraising income this year – about £100m – due to the wipeout of established fundraising events at a time when pressure on its services was growing.

The massive financial hit taken by two of the UK’s biggest and best-supported charities is likely to put further pressure on ministers to launch a financial rescue package for charities which provide frontline health, social and care services but which are currently unable to undertake crucial fundraising activities.

The collapse of “social fundraising” events followed the introduction of physical distancing measures in the UK last month, and included the postponement of big fundraising events such as the London Marathon, the closure of thousands of charity shops, and the cancellation of smaller “social fundraising” events from bring-and-buys to coffee mornings.

Cancer Research UK admitted that the blow to its finances and research capacity could set back its fight against the disease for many years – and directly impact on its goal to see three in four people survive their cancer by 2034. Some of its clinical and scientific staff and researchers have transferred to Covid-19 work in the NHS.

“There can be no doubt that this global pandemic is going to cause huge strain on charities in the coming months,” said Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive.

“People affected by cancer will be facing difficult situations because they are particularly vulnerable, or because their treatment is being affected by the knock-on impact in the health service, and our priority is making sure we can support them during these unprecedented times.”

Cancer Research UK’s admission that it is going to have to rein in its research programme – alongside cutbacks across the entire charity, including a 20% pay cut for senior staff – is the latest in a series of blows for the voluntary sector that is reeling from an estimated £4bn loss in income over the next few weeks, which is normally its peak fundraising period.

Claire Rowneyof Macmillan Cancer Support said: “The Covid-19 pandemic is already having a devastating impact on charities, ourselves included.

“It is too early to report exact figures, but we are monitoring the situation daily and expect our income to drop significantly in line with estimates by the sector which anticipate charities will lose between 35% and 50% of their annual income due to the impact of coronavirus on some fundraising events which are being cancelled or postponed.

“As the NHS comes under enormous strain, people living with cancer will need Macmillan now more than ever and the pressure on our frontline services has never been greater, with about a third of all calls to our support line in the last week from cancer patients concerned about Covid-19. We expect this figure to continue to rise in the coming weeks and months.”

On Tuesday night Teenage Cancer Trust said it was set to lose about half of its income this year – £11m – after most of its upcoming fundraising activities and events were cancelled or postponed, including a sold-out week of music and comedy at the Royal Albert Hall that was set to raise £1m.

Kate Collins, chief executive of Teenage Cancer Trust called on ministers to provide financial support to keep charity-funded services afloat at a time when young people with cancer were suffering isolation and uncertainty. “The sector is facing a huge increase in need at a time of significant loss in income,” she said.

Karl Wilding, chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, said: “This is a very stark example of what the loss of fundraising income means for the work that charities do. Without government support, we’re going to see more and more charities cutting back their work or closing entirely.”

Ministers have been under pressure to extend financial help to the charity sector on similar grounds to the support they have offered to small- and medium-sized businesses but, despite three weeks of negotiations, no help has been forthcoming, save suggestions that a £100m bailout fund is being prepared, a figure charity insiders have derided as “inadequate”.

Charities which have reported financial problems as a result of the fundraising collapse include Sue Ryder hospices, and the St John Ambulance, which told MPs it would run out of money in the next four months because of the collapse of its training business. St John has deployed hundreds of volunteers around the NHS to help tackle Covid-19.

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