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A friend in need

the CSP Members’ Benevolent Fund can help if you’re trapped by financial worries, says Janet Wright

CSP members are a generous group, says Beti Edwards, after decades of collecting for the CSP Members’ Benevolent Fund (MBF). Donations are always well used, says Dr Edwards, who recently retired after 20 years as a trustee.

‘Collections, sometimes made by rattling buckets at conference doors, always attract a generous response,’ she says.

That swells the income from the MBF’s investments (ethical, of course) plus legacies, donations and £30,000 a year from the CSP.  

‘In 2010 we were able to assist 55 members, spending just over £78,000,’ says Dorothy Toyn, MBF trustee and chairman. ‘That’s probably the most we’ve spent, and on a rising number of beneficiaries, but not surprising in the present financial climate.’

Income during that year was high, at £200,000, thanks to some large legacies – which are very welcome and always invested.

‘The income sounds a lot, but the trustees are very careful about the level of grants given on a monthly basis to ensure it is sustainable in leaner times,’ says Mrs Toyn.

Invaluable support

Although any CSP member is eligible for potential support, the fund is separate from the CSP itself, and, says Dr Edwards, is ‘extremely well run’. All its officers (chair, vice-chair, secretary and treasurer) are physios. Each committee member is a trustee, some from other professions such as nursing or social work.

The CSP provides ‘invaluable’ admin support and financial advice, says Dr Edwards, as well as hosting committee meetings at the society’s London offices.

Applicants to the MBF may receive regular income or a one-off grant to help with, say, meeting an unexpected expense or buying equipment needed to aid independent living.

Twenty years ago, applicants tended to be retired physios fallen on hard times.  

‘The then secretary of the committee, who served for many years, kept up a rich correspondence with all the beneficiaries, knowing each one in considerable detail, including the names of their pets,’ Dr Edwards adds.

Most applicants now, however, are in their thirties or forties, and needs have changed. Confidentiality is too closely guarded to give details. But, says Dr Edwards, ‘over the years, changes in the wider society have been reflected in the committee’s work.’

Easy credit helped young physios onto the property ladder in the boom years, she says. But with no savings, some risked losing their homes as a result of accidents or long-term illness. Several have been helped by the MBF.

Another change is the increasing  rate of relationship break-down, which often leaves members with children to support on only one income.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the stream of applications stemming from mental or physical illness, bereavement or family difficulties, says Dr Edwards.

‘Recipients often write to acknowledge the assistance they received at times of great stress,’ she says. ‘I encourage members to continue to give strong support to the fund, which does excellent work on their behalf.’ fl

 

‘It helps to know There’s light at the end of the tunnel’

For mature student Heather Crossthwaite, of Preston, the Members’ Benevolent Fund was a lifeline during a painful time. She was badly hit by her brother’s sudden death during her first year at Salford University.
‘It was quite a struggle continuing,’ she says. ‘I became very depressed and ending up taking two years out.’

Heather had already put a lot of effort into becoming a physiotherapist. She’d started studying on access courses while working part-time until her children Tom, now 19, and Charlotte, 15, started school.  

Then a four-month contract as a physio assistant at Blackpool Victoria hospital led on to an assistant’s job at Southport district hospital. Meanwhile, she was building up her qualifications until she could start a part-time degree.

For a while after her brother’s death she continued studying, giving up her job and living on a bursary. But when she could no longer continue, her income dried up and a colleague suggested contacting the MBF.

‘They were lovely,’ she says. ‘The benevolent fund sent me a small amount every month that really did help out, and some extra at Christmas.

‘The secretary Bridget Davis stayed in touch with me the whole two years I was off, with letters and Christmas cards,’ she adds. ‘I found it really supportive, and knowing I was still part of the CSP also helped me a lot.

‘It made such a difference having that break. When I came back I was ready to finish my degree.’

This year, Heather graduated with a first-class degree and an award as best student in the part-time group. Now working a few hours a week with mentor Rebecca Coles at Broughton Physiotherapy Clinic in Preston – ‘It’s a chance to start using my skills and it’s great’ – she is looking for a job.

‘Sometimes members must wonder what they’re paying towards – what does the benevolent fund do?’ she says. ‘There’s support there and it does really help when things are tough. You know there’s light at the end of the tunnel and with help you can come out at the other end.’

 

Further information

Cheques payable to ‘CSP Members’ Benevolent Fund’ can be sent c/o CSP, 14 Bedford Row, London WC1R 4ED. For other options, see www.csp.org.uk/mbf.

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Article Information

Author(s)

Janet Wright

Issue date

5 October 2011

Volume number

17

Issue number

17

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