Cancer charity in Harlesden to close after funding slashed

Cancer Black Care

Black Cancer Care charity in Harlesden is closing for good at the end of March 2021. - Credit: Google

A cancer support charity in Harlesden will close next month after its funding was cut. 

Cancer Black Care, in Acton Road, has been offering services remotely since the covid lockdown but will close for good on March 31 unless there is a rescue package.

It's 250 clients with cancer, 100 of whom who are actively being helped, will lose a vital lifeline.

 Professor Frank Chinegwundoh MBE

Professor Frank Chinegwundoh MBE, chairperson of Cancer Black Care in Harlesden. - Credit: Ralph Hodgson

"We will try and deal with clients requirements until 31 March and not take on any new clients from now," said Professor Frank Chinegwundoh MBE, chairperson of the charity.

"After that, there is no provision. Clients will have to navigate the care systems themselves and I expect many will give up."

NW London CCG said it was "surprised" by this paper's enquiry as it says it has not heard from charity trustees since April 2020 when it agreed to "support them through a winding down process".

The charity was started in 1995 by Isaac Dweben following the death of his elder brother from prostate cancer in 1992 .

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He discovered that there was a lack of appropriate information and that the level of cancer awareness amongst his Afro Caribbean community was very limited.

Professor Chinegwundoh, Consultant Urological Surgeon at St Barts Hospital, was made chair of trustees in 1998 and was instrumental in bringing about policy changes which have had far reaching effects nationally.

He said: "There are very few black organisations in the cancer sector. Raising independent funds to keep going has been a constant struggle.

"Every now and then we get pots of money to do a particular projects, such as a men's drop in project, but to get core running costs is a struggle.

"Brent's CCG has been very good over the years but I can't raise £80K a year from a standing start and then money to pay someone. So we find ourselves in this perilous situation where we're going to have to close."

Brent CCG reduced its £80k funding to £40k last year "and now it's zero", Prof Chinegwundoh said. "Without that money it's just impossible to survive."

The Acton Road premises closed in October as it could no longer afford the £20k lease. One full time member of staff and one part time staff member will be made redundant with cash left over from the reserves, which is around £15,000. 

The two staff members, and volunteers, help clients with information provision, advocacy, taking them to hospital appointments and helping them with different forms.

"These clients are poor and often need to be rehoused because of their needs," said Professor Chinegwundoh. "The forms are very complex and challenging so we help them with their forms."

The charity has always been very important in terms of representation at public health level and lobbying, he said.

The charity succeeded in getting brown breast prosthetics on the NHS for breast cancer sufferers when only pink ones were available and NHS provision for getting black cancer sufferers wigs when they lost their hair.

After research showed black men get prostate cancer five years earlier than white men the lobbying led to a change that black men could get their blood tests at 45 rather than 50.

A spokesperson for NW London CCGs said: "Last year Cancer Black Care approached the CCG to say they needed to wind down their service as they could not afford to keep running.

"The CCG agreed with the charity to support them through the winding down process and a reduced amount of money was provided to them to do this.

"The charity has not been in contact with the CCG since this agreement was made in April 2020."