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Redkite shinning the light on unseen challenges and gaps in support for families facing childhood cancer.

When a family is told their child has cancer, what they hear is “your child might die”. 

That’s around 90 families a month – because every month in Australia, 90 children are diagnosed with cancer. 

As soon as their child’s life is in question, it can feel impossible for families to hold it together and keep functioning, not only for their sick child but for one another. Childhood cancer can threaten the very survival of the family itself.

There is a misconception that in Australia, if you have a child with cancer, the health care system has all the resources available to support you and your family throughout your child’s entire cancer journey. Although it’s true that we have some of the highest standards of health care and survival rates from paediatric cancer in the world, it’s not true to say families receive the holistic support they need to manage the impacts of their child’s cancer. 

While considerable focus goes into medical treatment for paediatric cancer, it is also critical to concentrate attention and support on the long-term wellbeing of the entire family. 

Cancer is a complex trauma that can affect families for many years and can have an impact on almost all aspects of life. Cancer puts each family member under extreme emotional pressure, challenges relationships, impacts career and education, and threatens financial stability in both the short and long-term. 

For almost 40 years Redkite has provided essential non-medical services for children with cancer and their families addressing the needs not addressed by the medical system that swings into action around treating the cancer. Redkite provides critical emotional and mental health support, financial assistance and information and resources families need throughout the long and traumatic cancer experience. 

In 2020, as demands for Redkite’s services reached record levels, Redkite set out to identify and quantify the gaps in support for families; to understand the scale of the problem, identify who was missing out and what kind of support they needed.

A recent Redkite report titled The Hidden Health Crisis – Children’s Cancer Needs More Than Medicine provides a sobering snapshot into the significant gaps that still exist in support available to families going through childhood cancer. While it was clear there were high levels of need across all stages of a families’ cancer experience, family mental health and wellbeing needs were not being met at the end of treatment when they returned home and during bereavement – and the scale of the issue is considerable. 

“PTSD and anxiety has been huge for almost all members of our family. We are struggling. My child’s father has been off work due to PTSD, depression, anxiety and the eldest child is struggling with anxiety and problems at school. I have had very significant mental health issues and sought out help from a psychiatrist and psychologist as a result” - Anonymous survey response.

Redkite estimates that right now there are 10,000 mums, dads, diagnosed children and their siblings in Australia missing out on the specialised emotional and mental health support they need to cope with childhood cancer.

"Children’s cancer needs more than just medicine, cancer continues well beyond the hospital, and our report shows this loud and clear. Redkite’s mission is to be a lifeline for families. We are committed to ensuring more children and families get the support they need – whether they are in hospital or at home, no matter where they are in Australia, at every stage of their cancer experience,” said Monique Keighery, CEO of Redkite.

It’s clear from Redkite’s research there are significant gaps in support across the entire cancer experience that urgently need to be addressed for children with cancer and their families.”

Over the next six years, Redkite aims to take on the ambitious task of closing the gaps in support for parents, diagnosed children and their siblings – working with families to co-design resources, expand their transition program and mental health service to ensure every family can access the support they need to survive the cancer experience. 

Find out more about Redkite here


This organisation is supported by trusts managed by Equity Trustees.