The good news is that we are helping more people living with MS than we have ever done before. People living with MS are facing truly difficult situations because they are vulnerable, or because the treatment they rely on may have been delayed due to the impact COVID-19 has had on the health service. Our priority remains providing support to the people living with MS who need us.
The bad news is that the money we use to pay for those services has dried up almost overnight.
The COVID-19 emergency has created a massive challenge for the MS Trust to ensure that we are able to continue to support people with MS. In the 27 years since we were first formed, we have never known a year like it. In all of the highs and lows during those three decades, it has never been this tough. The NHS is doing an amazing job with the coronavirus crisis. Clapping every Thursday evening doesn’t seem enough.
The MS Trust is playing a very small part in that battle. It’s humbling to know that some of the MS nurses we funded are now helping on the COVID-19 frontline.
Many MS specialists like our nurses are being redeployed, which means vital MS services up and down the country are now only contactable by phone.
Every day, we are hearing from some of the 130,000 people living with MS who are frightened, scared and unsure how to interpret the advice from the Government and uncertain how much the information on social media can be trusted. People who have had treatment delayed or are struggling to find out about their treatment options, or people struggling with isolation and anxiety while shielding at home all need trusted information and advice.
So people are turning to us. We have never experienced anything like this before. MS doesn’t stop, and neither do we.
We have seen record numbers of people contacting our Enquiry Service with questions about the coronavirus and MS. In a period of data domination, here is a startling number. The calls to our helpline increased last month almost threefold compared to this time last year.
But while one tap has been turned on to full, the other has been turned off. We receive no government or NHS funding. Around 80p in every pound we spend every year comes from traditional fundraising like skydives and cake sales. Lockdown stopped them almost overnight in one of the busiest fundraising periods of the year.
On April 26, we would have normally raised around £180,000 through our supporters running the London Marathon. Hopefully, the marathon will be re-run in October. Otherwise, that’s a 26-mile sized hole in our budget. And as hard as we try, there is no making up that sort of money in a hurry.
There is £750 million of government support. There are a huge number of charities competing for the same pot so the reality is it’s unlikely to make enough of a difference to every charity that needs help right now.
Need us more than ever
The unprecedented number of people turning to the MS Trust means we can’t dial down our support anytime soon. And when the world returns to normal, the 130 people who are being diagnosed every week with multiple sclerosis will need us more than ever.
So while we are in a serious situation, we are planning to tough this out so we are still here for people living with MS in 2021 and beyond.
Traditional fundraising isn’t going to recover anytime soon. So our only option is to reach out to the generous individuals who have previously supported us, and those who are choosing to start their donor journey now, when it matters most.
We have launched an emergency appeal to help us keep going through the coronavirus crisis and beyond, I have already been heartened by people’s generosity. Every donation we receive right now is important and every penny makes a difference to the support we can provide right now and helps change people’s lives. All charities are struggling. But we are in danger of sounding a bit like Oliver Twist with the often heard mantra “Please supporters/ Government, can we have some more money.”
Quite simply, the record demand for our support from people living with MS can’t be ignored now more than ever. We need your help to meet that demand until this crisis is done. MS doesn’t stop, and neither do we.
By David Martin, CEO of the MS Trust
You can find out more about our Emergency Appeal at www.mstrust.org.uk/ms-doesnt-stop.