This month I helped to launch a new group to support children and young people with cancer and to strength their voice in Parliament. It had been a long time in the planning, and there’s now a huge amount for us to do, but the All Party Parliamentary Group on Children, Teenagers and Young Adults with Cancer (APPG CTYAC) is now up and running. And I’m proud to be its Chair.
The launch in Parliament on 11 October saw children, young people, their parents, several MPs and charity representatives come together to speak about what matters to young people with cancer.
Recent developments in cancer care have recognised that young people with cancer have unique needs, but we still need to make progress in cancer services to improve diagnosis, access to age-specific care and post-treatment support for this patient group.
As experts in children and young people with cancer, Teenage Cancer Trust and CLIC Sargent have teamed up to provide administrative support as the secretariat for this pioneering group. And I’m delighted that Filton and Bradley Stoke MP Jack Lopresti has agreed to be Vice-Chair, with fellow MPs Jim Shannon, Ruth George and Mark Tami all agreeing to be officers of the group. A further 29 MPs either attended the launch or have expressed an interest in joining the group.
For those who missed it, here’s the column I wrote for the Bristol Post on Friday 20 October.
As a Member of Parliament, I fight for what the people of Bristol West care about. Sometimes this means campaigning on things that affect us all, like pollution or climate change. Sometimes it means helping individual people in difficulty.
But sometimes it means prioritising something which affects very few people, but which hurts those it affects so badly that pretty much everyone would probably want me to prioritise it.
Hearing that a child you love has cancer is devastating. Thankfully it’s rare, but that’s part of the problem with childhood cancers –because they’re rare, they’re tricky to research and this makes treatment hard. Often it makes treatment very harsh, with horrendous side-effects. There are also longer-term impacts of the treatment, such as the risk of infertility, or disability.
Parents, on top of the fears and anxieties of their child’s illness, often struggle to keep their job at the same time as caring for a very sick child. Brothers and sisters miss their sibling and may also miss out on time with their parents, or be preoccupied at school worrying about what is happening.
Since I became an MP I’ve met families living in the CLIC Sargent house in Kingsdown for families affected by childhood cancer. I’ve spent time in the teenage cancer ward at the Bristol Royal Infirmary, talking to staff and young people. I’ve worked closely with CLIC Sargent and Teenage Cancer Trust, raising questions of Health Ministers, launching research on the costs of childhood cancer, and listening to children, young people and families, about how cancer has affected them.
Their voices need to be heard throughout Parliament. They have specific needs and experiences which government needs to listen to. And families affected by childhood cancer need champions in Parliament to do this.
So over the last six months I have worked with CLIC Sargent and Teenage Cancer Trust to establish the All Party Parliamentary Group on Children, Teenagers and Young Adults with Cancer. This cross-party working group will promote the very specific experiences and needs families affected by childhood cancer have. We launched the group last week and I was delighted that MPs from all parties came along to hear the young people and parents who spoke, and to offer to help. We have a lot to do, but we’re very determined.
During my time as a Member of Parliament I’ll always work hard on problems affecting most or all of the people I represent. But I know you will also back me in prioritising childhood cancer, even though this is something which, thankfully, affects very few people.
More about the APPG CTYAC
The APPG CTYAC intends to provide a valuable opportunity to raise awareness of the issues affecting children, teenagers and young adults with cancer and their families in Parliament.
In particular, the group aims to: scrutinise the effectiveness of the system supporting young cancer patients throughout their experience of cancer; influence Government policy to reflect the needs of children, teenagers and young adults with cancer; provide a forum for discussion in Parliament of the key issues affecting children and young people with cancer; champion the voices of young cancer patients and their families to ensure their experiences are represented to Parliament and government; and bring together and engage with relevant stakeholders supporting young cancer patients and their families.