Meet the CLIC Sargents
The CLIC Sargent team meets every kid and teenager who's been diagnosed with cancer or leukaemia. It gives them an information pack explaining how the charity can help - practically, financially and emotionally.
When you go into hospital, your family will spend as much time with you as they can. They'll want to keep you company and know you're OK.
But this can sometimes cause a few problems. Your mum or dad might need to take time off work – or even give up their job altogether – so there's not as much money coming into the household. Your home might be a long way from the hospital, so it costs your parents a lot of money in petrol and parking charges. Or your family might need a short holiday to or a "fun day" out to give them a bit of a break.
In fact, there's all kind of stuff that might need to be thought about and sorted out. And that's where the charity CLIC Sargent comes in.
Its unusual name comes from two separate organisations that joined together – CLIC (Cancer and Leukaemia in Childhood) and the Malcolm Sargent charity. The CLIC Sargent team at Birmingham Children's Hospital, which is made up of social workers and a youth development worker, meets every young person who's been diagnosed with cancer or leukaemia. It gives them an information pack explaining how the charity can help - practically, financially and emotionally.
Straightaway, CLIC Sargent can give your family £170 towards the cost of petrol and other money pressures there may be. Then it looks into what other grants your family might be able to apply for. Of course, you don't have to accept help. As team manager Kath Hill says, you can always tell CLIC Sargent to buzz off! Or you can just have a good shout and a scream.
Kath says this often happens, because of shock, anger or frustration, and she and the rest of the team understand and don't mind. You and your family might also feel uncomfortable because CLIC Sargent is mostly made up of social workers.
"We have to overcome the stigma of social workers being involved with a family," explains Kath. "People sometimes think there's something wrong with them as parents if a social worker gets involved with the family. But that's not the case at all."
For a lot of families, the main difficulties are money and finding childcare for brothers and sisters at home – especially when a family has only a mum or dad.
"Housing is a big issue because if, say, one parent's income goes, a family might not be able to pay the mortgage," says Kath. "So we can give lots of advice about benefits people can claim to make their money situation easier."
Another way CLIC Sargent can help is to encourage you and the rest of the family to talk about how you all feel about what's happening. "Adults and children want to protect each other, so sometimes they won't talk about their feelings because they are frightened of upsetting one another," says Kath. "So we try to speak to children and their parents separately."
The CLIC Sargent social work team will also work with brothers and sisters, as your illness is likely to have an effect on them. So, for example, the charity organises "siblings' days", family fun days and even grandparents' days. There's also a youth club based in Birmingham city centre for teenage family members.
"Families do feel isolated, socially, when a child is in hospital for quite a long time and it can put relationships under quite a lot of strain." To help keep those relationships happy, CLIC Sargent can organise free holidays for your family. These include going to stay at Malcolm Sargent House in Scotland or in a luxury caravan in Devon, Sussex, Lancashire or Yorkshire.