Big Lottery Fund
Printable version E-mail this to a friend

Advocacy champions older people affected by cancer

A vital service that will ensure the voices of older people affected by cancer are heard is among ten initiatives awarded flagship funding. They share in over £10 million from the Big Lottery Fund’s Silver Dreams Fund, in association with the Daily Mail.

Receiving £1 million The Older People’s Advocacy Alliance UK (OPAAL) will use the funding for a project to roll out advocacy services across the country to provide crucial support for older people affected by cancer by recruiting and training older people  themselves affected by cancer to support their peers. It originally received £199,998 for its pilot project.

Volunteer advocates and Cancer Champions will use their experience of cancer to provide a deep understanding of the difficult issues faced by those suffering with the disease. They will provide a comprehensive, independent and personal advocacy service tailored to the specific needs of each individual to ensure that any problems are identified and addressed.

The support will include helping older people make decisions on their treatment and care by carrying out research into care options; being present during ward rounds, attending meetings with their consultants and helping cancer patients regain confidence when talking to medical staff and other service providers.

The project will expand its national and local Cancer Champions Boards to create a shared understanding with health agencies to enable  an efficient and effective referral system for those in need.

Successfully piloted in a number of areas across the country the scheme can now reach out to older people in need across Sandwell, Sefton, Knowsley, Lancashire, Dorset, Bristol, Oxfordshire and Staffordshire.

Maureen’s story - “I’ve got my mum’s determination and I won’t give up”

I moved to my lovely flat 3 years ago after living abroad and in London and Surrey. My friends describe me as indestructible. I recently celebrated my 70th birthday with family and friends in Tenerife. When the cancer returned two years ago although it was a shock I focussed on decorating my flat to give me another goal. 

If I am having a down day I may call my advocate Annie and I also call Macmillan Support Line as they have long hours. My GP surgery has arranged counselling for me. 
I now belong to a local ladies’ social group, after first going with a friend. I have since been on my own which I thought was brave and really enjoyed the evening when we went out for an Indian meal, we had a ball.                                         

I’m looking to get more exercise and I’m hoping to start a dancing class soon. I’ve got my mum’s determination and I won’t give up. I think you have to fight for every single thing in life.

In 1990 I was first diagnosed with cancer in both breasts and was treated with chemotherapy and radiotherapy. In 2002 the cancer returned in one breast and I was offered a mastectomy. I requested a double mastectomy as I felt it was better for me.  I insisted on reconstruction at the same time and was pleased with the results.  I take care of my appearance and it’s important to me to feel that I look nice.

In 2011 I was told the breast cancer was back. Two top consultants said they had never seen such a reoccurrence.  It was frightening. I started treatment on a tablet called Letrozole which caused side effects even though I had previously been on another tablet before, Tamoxifen, which caused much less side effects. I’ve had many ups and downs over the last two years and I eventually told the CNS (Cancer Nurse Specialist) late last year that I wanted to be on the tablet that suited me better.  Since I have changed tablets I have been able to lose some weight.

A friend saw the cancer advocacy service leaflet in her GP surgery and passed it on to me. I called to find out if I could get emotional support and someone to go with me to hospital appointments when my son can’t. The service coordinator came to introduce the two volunteer advocates to me at home. It was brilliant meeting my advocates. The first volunteer advocate was very caring, the second, Annie is very chatty like me and we get on well together personality wise. Each of my advocates has gone with me to hospital appointments and provided transport although I sometimes use the local Neighbour-care cars. Although I don’t need someone to speak on my behalf they were there to hold my hand. My current volunteer advocate Annie reassured me and gave me information on where to get help and what to do when I had a worrying symptom recently.

Since I moved house I have less close girlfriends to share things with and I don’t want to worry my son, he’s family. It has been good to have someone with me. I feel I’m not frightened to tell my advocates anything and everything. They are there for me to talk to about positives and negatives. I know Annie is a very strong lady who also cares and I know that she’s not going to get emotionally involved.
Since I stopped driving it has been more difficult to go out and Annie has helped a lot with that and taken me out for coffee and trips.  It helps me a lot to get out. I would like to help other breast cancer sufferers and I hope to do this by sharing my story
“I tell everyone about the service, I think it’s wonderful and we’re lucky to have it in this part of the country.”

Kath Parson, Chief Executive of OPAAL said: “This is a real testament to effective committed partnership work, with all parties, including older people themselves, working together to create something far bigger than the sum of its parts to better serve older people.”

Dharmendra Kanani, Big Lottery Fund England Director said: “Today’s grants will help support so many different groups of older people from isolated older men setting up hen houses in care home settings to addressing their social isolation through dining clubs. Their work today will help develop new ways of supporting older people for future generations to come.
“The Older People’s Advocacy Alliance UK successfully demonstrated their plans to expand and replicate the great work they have already started for more older people to benefit.  They are just one of ten projects to share £10 million today.”

Bel Mooney, Daily Mail advice columnist, writer and Silver Dreams Fund committee member said: “It was so telling to realise that so many of the projects which applied for Silver Dreams funding were tackling issues which arise in my Daily Mail advice column, especially a sense of isolation amongst older people. But just to read the applications was to feel uplifted. All the projects reach out to men and women who have paid their debt to society and now experience (variously) isolation, bereavement, alcohol abuse and the fear of ill health and the end of life. And all are run by committed individuals with the passion and expertise to bring the ‘dreams’ to fruition. Those people – and all the volunteers who give time and energy – deserve gratitude and celebration.”

Further information

Big Lottery Fund Press Office: 020 7211 1888
Out of hours media contact: 07867 500 572
Full details of the Big Lottery Fund programmes and grant awards are available on the website:
Ask BIG a question here:
Follow BIG on Twitter: #BIGlf
Find BIG on facebook:

Statistics on older people and ageing

  • There are 10.3 million people aged 65 and over in the UK. This is an 80 per cent increase over six decades, from in 1951. (House of Commons Library, Population ageing: statistics, Tom Rutherford, 10 Feb 2012)
  • 51% more people aged 65 and over in England in 2030 compared to 2010 (Ready for Ageing? House of Lords, March 14, 2013)
  • 101% more people aged 85 and over in England in 2030 compared to 2010 (Ready for Ageing? House of Lords, March 14, 2013)
  • Research demonstrates that loneliness and social isolation have a similar impact on mortality as smoking, and is worse than obesity. It has significant links to a range of chronic conditions, including hypertension, depression, and dementia – increasing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 50%. (
  • A survey of over 1,000 older people (March 2013) suggests that people aged over-65s spend on average over 6 waking hours alone every day. (
  • It is estimated that 80% more people aged 65 and over with dementia (moderate or severe cognitive impairment) in England and Wales by 2030 compared to 2010 (Ready for Ageing? House of Lords, March 14, 2013)                                                                                              

Notes to Editors

  • Silver Dreams from the Big Lottery Fund in association with the Daily Mail was launched on 30 Sept 2011. It was the first tranche of a £135 million investment in England for older people.
  • In June 2012 37 projects shared in £6 million for pilot projects through Silver Dreams Fund. Each could then apply for up to £1 million funding to replicate and expand their projects.
  • Since 2004, BIG has funded close to £25.4 million in grants benefitting older people across England.
  • BIG’s pledge to older people investments currently includes Fulfilling Lives; Ageing Better - £70 million: Centre for Ageing Better - £50 million; Silver Dreams Fund - £16 million; Research for Impact - £5 million and £26.6 million to over 54,000 veterans through Heroes Return 2.
  • The Big Lottery Fund, the largest distributor of National Lottery good cause funding, is responsible for giving out 40% of the money raised for good causes by the National Lottery.
  • The Fund is committed to bringing real improvements to communities and the lives of people most in need and has been rolling out grants to health, education, environment and charitable causes across the UK. Since its inception in 2004 BIG has awarded close to £6bn.
  • The Fund was formally established by Parliament on 1 December 2006.
  • In the year ending 31 March 2013, 28% of total National Lottery revenue was returned to the Good Causes.
  • Since the National Lottery began in 1994, £31 billion has been raised and more than 400,000 grants awarded across arts, sport, heritage, charities, health, education and the environment.

Webinar: Taming the Content Sprawl - Tuesday, 4 October 2022 Online 10:00 - 11:00AM