A CANCER charity has welcomed a £5 million fund which has been opened to support parents and siblings of young people in hospital.

The Scottish Government scheme, which is an extension of a similar pot for premature babies, will offer cash to cover travel, food and overnight accommodation expenses for the parents and siblings of young people in hospital.

Young Lives vs Cancer has been campaigning for a young cancer patient travel fund since 2017 for loved ones to receive help towards the cost of a cancer diagnosis.

The charity has pointed to situations when a child or young person is diagnosed with cancer and they often have to travel significant distances to and from hospital as well as pay out for parking and the many other additional costs that come with staying at a hospital for long periods of time.

On average, the families supported by the charity spend an extra £600 a month when their child is going through cancer treatment – including on petrol, public transport, taxis and parking.

Young Lives vs Cancer’s associate director of policy, influencing and voice, Helen Gravestock, said: “When a child is diagnosed with cancer, the whole family’s world turns upside down. Parents often have to stop working, children can be taken out of school and suddenly they have to travel miles for life-saving treatment. 

"The last thing they should be worrying about is how to afford the petrol to be by their child’s bedside.

READ MORE: Public health minister Maree Todd tests positive for coronavirus

“On average, families spend an extra £600 every month while their child is having cancer treatment.

“The young patients family fund will be very much welcomed by children and young people with cancer and their families. Young Lives vs Cancer looks forward to working with colleagues in Scotland to ensure that all eligible families can benefit from it.

“We hope this fund will go on to help many of the families we support in Scotland and we want to work with the other nations to ensure all families across the UK have access to a similar fund when going through treatment.”

Public health minister, Maree Todd, who announced the funding said: “When a hospital stay is necessary, families want to focus on the health and wellbeing of their child, without the worry of the financial costs around being there for them.

“This fund will provide support when it is most needed, and is an extension of our neonatal expenses fund, which covers costs for the parents of sick or premature newborn babies.
“The young patients family fund extends the support to cover the families of all inpatients from birth up to the age of 18.”

Caroline Lee-Davey, the chief executive of Bliss Scotland, a charity supporting the families of premature or sick babies, added: “This new fund will now mean that parents of premature and sick babies who need hospital care once their neonatal treatment is over will continue to be supported throughout their hospital journey."

“We will continue to work with the Scottish Government to ensure the Fund meets the needs of families and will keep campaigning for the other UK nations to introduce similar support for families with a baby in neonatal care.”