THE founder of a children’s cancer charity says it has faced a ‘heartbreaking’ surge in demand for help during the coronavirus pandemic.

Dianne Parkes, founder of Witney-based Joss Searchlight, said hundreds of families have approached the charity since the first lockdown.

She said: “There has been a massive increase in people reaching out to us for help because they’re desperate for help and that is truly heartbreaking.

“Since Covid-19 grabbed hold of the nation by the scruff of the neck, we’ve experienced an unprecedented demand for our support services.

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“Much of the increase in demand is due to the anxiety and uncertainty as families await cancer treatments.

“Since lockdown, we’ve been contacted by more than 300 families regarding mental health services for their children.

“Some 75 per cent of families believe their child’s mental health has deteriorated while waiting for support.

“Children are suffering from depression, stress, compulsive obsessive disorders, problems sleeping, panic attacks and episodes of self-harming.”

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Mrs Parkes set up the charity after her son Joss was diagnosed with an incurable brain tumour when he was just four years old.

She spoke out after the charity was given £1,000 by housebuilder Mactaggart & Mickel.

Joanne Casey, managing director at Mactaggart & Mickel, said: “We pride ourselves on being a family business with its heart in the right place.

“The pandemic is continuing to create challenges for people in all walks of life, but families affected by childhood cancer are being especially hit hard.

“Dianne is inspirational, and we know she will ensure our donation provides essential support to children and families who are crying out for help as they go through the toughest of times.”