The Big C are a registered cancer charity in Norfolk providing support and treatment which can start from pre-diagnosis as well as offering specialised, community-based cancer support centres for local people.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic the charities four support centres closed to protect the vulnerable users and so they really had to adapt and extend the way they provided their support. The Big C were awarded a grant from the Covid-19 Local Resilience fund to support people affected by cancer in distinct social distancing ways including telephone support, video chat, emergency shopping and providing their much needed comfort packs.

The cancer charity have been working in partnership with the Trussell Trust food banks and so were able to deliver urgent food parcels via their dedicated Big C drivers for patients who find themselves in financial difficulties. Not only that but they have referred people, particularly those with financial and benefit concerns, for telephone counselling sessions and welfare advice to the local Citizens Advice Bureau’s.

The Big C virtual support centre included included assistance like fitness, mental health and physical well-being sessions via Zoom as well as a ‘Ask Nurse’ service to meet the needs of their vulnerable clients. Moreover The Big C have been in contact with pilates and fitness instructors to develop at home exercise videos and have been looking to expand this health focal point to include healthy eating plans.

Altogether an incredible 250 support packs were delivered by The Big C to their most vulnerable service users. These support packs included home comfort items like reading books, personal care items, biscuits and even hand sanitisers created by UEA scientists for the charity.

Some service users like T have felt comfort when accessing the support at the hub. T’s mother passed away from terminal cancer at the beginning of year 2020 and was a difficult period. He received a counselling service at the Big C Centre in Great Yarmouth via referral and began to feel reassured with the environment “I was anxious about how I was going to feel walking into the Centre. But the minute I stepped through the doors, I felt at ease. The biggest thing for me was there was no urgency, no twelve-page forms to fill out and everybody there seemed incredibly kind and friendly. Following this, I was introduced to my counsellor and we had an introductory meeting.

When the Covid-19 pandemic emerged T began to feel worried about the chances of still receiving their crucial help from The Big C “After the Centre closed, I felt concerned about whether I could continue to receive this much-needed support. However, I received a phone call within a few days and a was told that Big C’s services were still available over the phone. I was also informed that it would take some time to set up the counselling sessions via telephone, but that I could still have mine over the phone if I wished. It brought me an incredible peace of mind.” Altogether Tim was taken back by the extended and remote service and felt his situation and needs were still being cared for “Every week someone from Big C called me to check on how I was doing. I also received a welfare pack – which was such a lovely surprise. I just wasn’t expecting it.

All in all The Big C adapted to some of the challenges brought by the Covid-19 pandemic and adjusted their service to help vulnerable individuals in lock down receive vital well-being care.