Childhood Cancer Ireland has welcomed the inclusion of childhood, adolescent and young adult cancer in the ‘significant ongoing illness’ criteria of DARE (Disability Access Route to Education). This addition gives greater access to the scheme for young people whose education has been impacted by cancer, no matter when they were diagnosed.
DARE is an alternative admissions route to third level for students whose disability or ongoing illness has had a negative impact on their second level education. The addition of childhood cancer, including those in remission, to the definition of ‘significant ongoing illness’ by the Irish Universities Association has come in time for the 2023 CAO application process, which opens on Friday 4th November. Up to now, childhood cancer survivors who were more than three years out of treatment and whose treatment impacted their education did not have automatic access to DARE as a result of their illness.
Mary-Claire Rennick, Director of Childhood Cancer Ireland and parent of a survivor:
“We are all familiar with the immediate effects of cancer treatment – nausea, vomiting, hair loss and pain. But most are unfamiliar with the long-term and late effects that childhood, adolescent and young adult cancer survivors live with, which can be physical, emotional, or cognitive and may not emerge until months, or even years, after treatment.”
Students undergoing cancer treatment may have been absent for long periods of primary and/or secondary school during treatment. The ongoing fatigue that the majority experience after their treatment means that they may not be well enough for a full school day for some time. On top of this, there are associated infections and side effects, time off for follow-up clinics and tests, as well as dealing with the physical and emotional impact of treatment.
“Without a diagnosis of a specific learning difficulty, families were struggling to meet the previous DARE criteria on the basis of their child’s diagnosis and treatment alone, particularly if their child was now in remission, or had been diagnosed when much younger. We are aware of cases where families paid privately for Educational Psychology Reports to support their applications and to show how childhood cancer impacted their education. DARE helps to level the playing field and we are grateful that the Irish Universities Association has taken on board the long-term impact that a diagnosis of childhood cancer has on a young person’s education to make this process easier for families,” continued Rennick.
An average of 358 children, adolescents and young adults aged 0-24 are diagnosed with cancer every year in Ireland . Childhood Cancer Ireland is the national parent and survivor-led charity representing the voice of children and young people with cancer, survivors and their families. The charity presented its case to the Irish Universities Association last year, alongside the National Cancer Control Programme. Learning difficulties are among the common late effects in CAYA survivors. They range from mild to severe and may be experienced alongside psychological effects (post-traumatic stress, for example) and other health issues. Some types of cancer may require therapy to control or prevent spread of the disease to the brain and/or spinal cord (central nervous system), which can affect memory and learning abilities.
Prof Owen Smith CBE, FTCD, National Clinical Programme Lead for Children and Adolescent/Young Adults with cancer at the National Cancer Control Programme.
“The life-saving treatments required to save children and adolescents are toxic and can have long-lasting effects on all aspects of their lives, including education. More children, adolescents and young adults now survive but this cure comes at a cost and we know that treatment can cause ongoing issues like lung, bone and brain disease. On the clinical side, we are working hard to provide a better quality of life for young survivors and we are pleased that there is now greater awareness of the ongoing impact on education.”
CAO applications open from 4th November to 1st February and students have until 1st March 2023 to indicate their wish to be considered for DARE. All information on the DARE application process is available at https://accesscollege.ie/dare/. Childhood Cancer Ireland held a webinar for parents and survivors on DARE last year, which can be found at https://youtu.be/L7sehBZn3E4.
 National Cancer Registry Ireland https://www.ncri.ie/