A local children’s cancer charity has criticised the distribution of National Lottery funding by the Department of Health, after it emerged that just €14,000 of the €3,286,000 allocation for 2012 was earmarked for cancer support services.
The department’s National Lottery discretionary fund provides grants to community and voluntary organisations providing health related services, with final approval for funding being granted by Health Minister Dr James Reilly.
The fund has already been the subject of controversy after it emerged that projects in the minister’s constituency, Dublin North received €195,000 in 2012 and €228,500 in 2011, compared to €10,000 in 2010, before his appointment as Minister.
Children’s cancer charity Hand in Hand West also slammed the Department’s distribution of the funds, after just €14,000 was provided for cancer services in 2012 to Éist Carlow Cancer Support Group.
Speaking to the Galway Independent, Hand in Hand West Development Officer Jennifer Carpenter said the charity had applied for lottery funding on 16 January 2012 and, following repeated enquiries, were officially informed by the Department of Finance 50 weeks later that their application had been declined “as all the funds had been dispersed”.
Hand in Hand West receives no State funding and currently requires €150,000 annually to provide support services to families whose children are affected by cancer.
National Irish Cancer Registry statistics indicate that the number of children being diagnosed with cancer is increasing and Hand in Hand West currently supports around 25 families in any given month.
Servicing eight counties, the voluntary organisation is the only dedicated childhood cancer support agency in the country. It is hoped that its services will be expanded nationwide in the future.
“About 80 per cent of children with cancer receive no form of appropriate support. We are constantly being asked by the staff in Crumlin, doctors and nurses, to expand our services further afield but without the necessary funding it just can’t happen,” said Ms Carpenter, adding that the charity is to receive €7,000 from the Irish Cancer Society this year.
Acknowledging that securing necessary funding is an “uphill battle”, Ms Carpenter said National Lottery funding “would have really just given us the security to go on another year”.
Describing the Department’s distribution of the funding as “horrifying”, Ms Carpenter suggested that allocations to organisations in certain sectors and geographical areas were “disproportionate”, with just 0.48 per cent of the fund going to cancer services, and none to childhood cancer care.
Galway organisations were allocated €232,673 in 2012 and, citing the example of Westmeath, which received just €500 from the fund, Ms Carpenter said: “This fund comes from the people who buy Lotto tickets so did only four people buy a Lotto ticket in Westmeath last year?
“It’s not being fairly placed and, whilst I understand the density of population in Dublin and that a lot of organisations are headquartered there so money would filter through to their branches, it is still disproportionate, and certainly through the other counties as well.”
Ms Carpenter said there needs to be some method to the allocation of funding.
Responding to this criticism, a spokesperson for the Department of Health said all projects approved for Lottery funding received money on the “basis of the important work they do in their communities nationwide”.
He said successful applications “should seek to provide for developments that result in an ongoing benefit to the organisation” and that the funding is “not provided to contribute to day to day funding”.
“The distribution of funding therefore is related to organisations being ready to make certain investments and applying on that basis,” he said, adding that a “very wide range of organisations are in receipt of funding in the 2012 announcement”.