In 2008 we co-authored a research paper published in Current Oncology which concluded that “Canada lacks adequate support programs for parents caring for a child with a catastrophic illness” . At this time, we are very pleased that the Canadian government has recently announced that it will introduce legislation to ensure that working parents of seriously ill children can draw upon employment insurance while caring for their child starting in 2013.
According to our research, parents (most often the mother) of a seriously ill child were frequently forced to terminate their paid employment due to care demands, travel requirements for care, lack of paid leave and emotional stress. This new legislation will hopefully alleviate some of the financial pressure for these parents. Currently, Canada does have a “compassionate leave” program for caregivers of a seriously ill child; however, the 6 weeks of coverage offered by this program is often far too short for the intensive care needs of these children, not to mention the emotional and financial stress associated with this responsibility. Unfortunately, 35 weeks of paid leave through the newly introduced employment insurance benefit may also be too short in some cases, but at least it is a very good start. Although the financial burden of caring for a seriously ill child will still be substantial due to medication and travel costs, working parents may be able to avoid the added stress of job loss or a substantially reduced income. The new employment insurance benefit may provide working parents with relief from at least one worry, knowing that for eight months they have some security of income and the flexibility to focus on their family during a time of need. Together with many other concerned groups, we have advocated for better parental leave with the Canadian government. As researchers, we are pleased to see that a relatively small research project has contributed to a monumental policy improvement in Canada. This type of outcome is the best Knowledge Translation a researcher can hope for, even if it took 5 years…..
1. Miedema, B., et al., The economic impact on families when a child is diagnosed with cancer. Curr Oncol, 2008. 15(4): p. 173-8.