11 May 2020

CEO Frank: Hardest decision in the Trust's history

Trust CEO Frank Fletcher gives an important update to the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust's 2020 season

At the end of each Trust trip, everyone shares their ‘best bit, worst bit, funniest bit.’ It’s always the highlight of my week. In my 15 years as Trust CEO, the best and funniest bits have merged into one giant happy memory of smiles and summer days. But when I’m asked what my worst bit has been, I will never again have to think twice. It is right now. It is this.

Almost two months ago, I published my first blog on how Coronavirus could impact our trips this year. We announced then we had revised our trip schedule to not run any activity, on or off the water, until mid-July at the earliest. We also said we knew we could well have more hard decisions to make in the weeks ahead.

Well we’ve now had to make those decisions. And I’m really sorry to have to say we won’t be running any first time trips in 2020, and are cancelling our return trips programme as it currently stands. If and when it becomes absolutely safe to do so, we would look at if we could organise some return trip activity later this year, but only then.

You will appreciate this decision has not been easy. But, however disappointing it might be, first and foremost, the Trust is about the helping young people to rebuild their confidence, their independence, their lives after cancer.

So the question now becomes what can we do to support them if we can’t take them sailing or away on a residential adventure week? How can we still achieve the best outcomes for young people who need our support in 2020 and beyond? It might look a bit different to what we’re used to, but the Trust is still going to be here for every young person who needs us this year. That is why we exist.

Making decisions

Before I talk about what comes next, I want to explain why we’ve taken the decisions we have.

First time trips - the health and wellbeing of the young people is paramount. At this moment, it’s impossible to see how we would be able to run first time trips safely for young people in recovery from cancer, particularly those recently off treatment. Additionally, our recruitment process for these trips heavily involves people working on the NHS frontline and our partner charities, including CLIC Sargent and Teenage Cancer Trust. In the current situation, we simply cannot put additional pressure on those services to recruit young people for our trips. We know young people are going to need the Trust more than ever in 2021 and so any young person who had already been put forward or considered for a trip this year will have priority next.

Return trips – this has arguably been the tougher decision, as recruitment doesn’t directly impact the NHS and our partner charities in the same way. However, the fundamental concern of the safety and wellbeing of the young people is the same. Social distancing restrictions may or may not ease in the coming months, which is one obvious factor. We know there are lots of young people who are shielding right now, and many others who are still understandably incredibly anxious about their own vulnerability and health. With so many of our volunteers coming from the NHS and our partner charities, or who are young people that the Trust supported during their own recovery, staffing these trips could be more difficult too.

Who knows what the next few months will bring. If at some point it looks like we might be able to run some safe return activity, that’s wholly compliant with Government guidelines and the advice of the multiple experts within the fields of young people’s cancer care we’ve been leaning on, we will revisit the idea. As we’re in contact with these young people and families directly, it’s easier to turn these trips around at shorter notice. But it’s still subject to a very big ‘if and when’.

Supporting young people doesn’t stop

So what will the Trust season look like now? Well the details are very much TBC.

Since we’ve been in lockdown we’ve extended our online support to the whole Trust community, including the launch of our new podcast, Sound Waves, Tuesday Night Trust hangouts, skipper and volunteer ‘how to’ tutorials and online Volunteer Training. The 2.6 Challenge also bought everyone together for an unbelievable week of fundraising activity and support, raising an incredible and unexpected £10,000. The virtual world offers huge potential to take all this even further; to get young people together online with their Trust friends and to experience the level of support, understanding and closeness they do on trips.

Also, while we might not be able to bring people together face-to-face inside the ‘normal’ trip season, could we do something completely new and different during the autumn and/or winter, again, if and when it is completely safe to do so? Just because we’ve never done it before doesn’t mean we never could or should. There will be other possibilities we haven’t even thought about yet too, and what comes next, and how that then flows into 2021, is where our attention now turns. This will include speaking to the wider Trust family for ideas and inspiration as to how we might be able to support young people in ways we’ve never done before.

That just leaves me to say THANK YOU to everyone who’s been so supportive of the Trust during this period, and so patient in enabling us to make the right decisions at the time they were ready to be made. We will never lose sight of what matters most.

Now we want your views!

We want ideas and inspiration from across our entire Trust community as to how we could support young people in ways we have never done before. To get this underway, we have put together a very short survey to gauge how best we can continue to support the Trust Family throughout Covid-19 and the rest of 2020. If you could please complete this by clicking on this link - 2020 Supporting the Trust Family through COVID-19 - it would be very helpful.

Hear more from Frank...

Episode 3 of Sound Waves can be found below, on Apple Podcasts, and on Spotify. This week, Frank joins host Scott, along with communications manager Karenza, to discuss the new changes to 2020 set out above.

Information for our funders and partners

We have produced a detailed Q&A for our funders and partners to explain our position on the remainder of 2020 and looking ahead to 2021. You can download that here - Q&A FOR FUNDERS AND PARTNERS