Canadian Cancer Society Welcomes New Benefit for Families of Critically Ill Children

07 August 2012

Vancouver -

The Canadian Cancer Society welcomes today’s federal government announcement that will provide more support for parents of critically ill children through a new employment insurance benefit. The benefit will help alleviate some of the financial burden associated with caring for a sick child. On average, approximately 1,310 children are diagnosed with cancer every year in Canada.

The Society has been advocating for better support for all caregivers for more than 10 years. Parents and legal guardians of children with cancer need adequate time off and job flexibility because a sick child often requires round-the-clock care for long periods of time. Today, the government announced that parental caregivers of critically ill children under the age of 18 can claim up to 35 weeks within a year under the Federal Employment Insurance Program. Under this benefit, ‘ critically ill’ is defined as a life-threatening illness or injury which can include various acute phases of illness or injury and for which continued parental care or support is required.

“With this announcement, the federal government has taken another important step to support family caregivers by providing improved support for parents looking after a critically ill child,” says Dan Demers, Director, Public Issues, Canadian Cancer Society. “Parents of sick children are dealing with incredible stress and anxiety and should not have to also worry about paying the bills or losing their job. This added benefit announced by the federal government today will help to alleviate some of this burden.”

Prior to this announcement, the only benefit available to family caregivers looking after their sick child allowed up to eight weeks of leave (under the Federal Employment Insurance Program) – six of which are paid at 55% of the average insurable earnings – if there was a ‘significant risk of death for a family member.’ However, parents of critically ill children were less likely to submit claims for financial support because they did not wish to acknowledge that their child had a significant risk of dying.

Although each child with cancer is different, typically chemotherapy treatment for a child is about six months long. When radiation is the primary treatment, the therapy is usually given once a day, five days a week, for about three to eight weeks. Also, specialized pediatric oncology treatment is only available in certain Canadian cities, which can mean travel time for both the child and the parents.

Other organizations supporting the new EI benefit include the Canadian Paediatric Society, the Childhood Cancer Foundation, and the Canadian Caregiver Coalition.

The Canadian Cancer Society is a national community-based organization of volunteers whose mission is the eradication of cancer and the enhancement of the quality of life of people living with cancer. When you want to know more about cancer, visit our website www.cancer.ca or call our toll-free, bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1 888 939-3333.

For more information, please contact:

Christine Harminc

Senior Manager, Communications & Media Relations

Canadian Cancer Society

Phone: 416 934-5340