Slowing down for Christmas and time to look forward to 2012. This will be DC Network’s 20th year and it could be a make or break one. We have been in our new office just north of Kings Cross for exactly a year, have three part-time staff working hard to support 1,600 member families and enquiries that come from all over the world and in March our major grant from the Department of Health (DH) comes to an end. In the same month we will learn if we have been successful in two bids for money that would enable us to continue our current activities and expand into new areas…or if we will have to sharply curtail staff hours and support for donor conception families. The first bid is to the DH for money to support and better train our many volunteers who welcome new members, helping to break isolation; those who run local support groups or organise meetings outside of London; and also members who facilitate small groups of parents at our national meetings. This could not be more important as the core activity of DCN is to put people in similar situations in touch with each other, but sometimes people need more skills and knowledge than simply sharing experiences.
The second grant application is to the Nuffield Foundation for a many stranded project that will attempt to put donor conception on the map in the same way as adoption was around twenty years ago. We are particularly excited about this bid, but a huge amount more work needs to go into the application before it is ready for submission in the second week in January. Little rest over the holiday period!
Whilst the success of these bids is out of our hands, we are at least in charge of and responsible for the writing of them. What feels very much out of our hands but of enormous long-term interest to donor affected families, is the future of the HFEA. As I wrote about on 12th December (Who will look after our records) we are to receive ‘shortly’ a consultation on where the functions of this body are best placed. I am quite clear that the Care Quality Commission (CQC) is not the organisation of choice. They even acknowledge this themselves, yet the government appears determined that the transfer of functions belong to them. They have no idea what they are talking about!
And whilst we apply for money to one arm of Nuffield, the Council on Bio-Ethics, following their scoping exercise on donation of body parts in general earlier in the year, are to go ahead with a working party on Genes and Parenting. It will be chaired by Council member Dr. Rhona Knight, a friendly looking GP with an interest in matters ethical. We are told that membership will be announced shortly when those who have been approached have responded. DC Network has not been approached. Nor has the Project Group on Assisted Reproduction (PROGAR), the social work based organisation that spear-headed the campaign to end anonymity for donors, recognising how bad secrecy and anonymity was for families. We await the announcement with bated breath, but cannot imagine that anyone can be more knowledgeable about the significance of information about genetic origins in the context of families created by donor conception, than DCN or PROGAR. Do these people know what they are doing?
So the first three or four months of 2012 looks pretty interesting and will certainly determine whether we will be ramping up our activities or, like so many in the current economic climate, having to damp things down and wait for better times. Fingers and toes crossed.