Focus: Frontline - The Elizabeth Finn Trust

Graham Willgoss,

WHAT IT IS: A nationwide organisation that supports and cares for professional people struggling to cope with old age, infirmity, disability, social isolation or financial need

WHAT IT DOES: Offers grants, regular allowances or one-off gifts for specific needs. Case workers and volunteers provide emotional support and practical advice through home visits

HOW IT'S FUNDED: Through public donations and the charity's own investments

Wendy Jones's life took a downward turn in her early thirties when her marriage to an alcoholic collapsed. Determined to improve her prospects, she went to university and juggled a demanding academic career with work to support herself.

After graduating and finding employment as a nurse, Jones was heavily in debt. The constant financial struggle took its toll and she had a complete mental and physical breakdown. Continuing to work in nursing became impossible.

"I fell into debt at university and hoped nursing would help me straighten it all out, but it didn't," she says. "On top of that, unresolved family tensions bore down on me. Life became a never-ending, disappointing struggle.

It was too much to bear and I collapsed under the sheer weight of it all."

Financial support

Jones sought help from her local Citizens Advice Bureau, which referred her to the Elizabeth Finn Trust. She immediately applied for financial support and was visited by a trust volunteer to reassure her.

"My case was put before the charity's committee and I was accepted as a beneficiary," says Jones. "I wept when I received the letter. I always felt that I was one of the undeserving poor, but suddenly I was worthy of support. It was such a relief."

The trust's weekly allowance and annual grant for emergencies supplements the state incapacity benefit she receives.

"No matter how hard I tried, my benefit simply didn't cover the increasing costs of telephone, water, gas, electricity, council tax, food and toiletries," she says.

"But it isn't just the trust's financial help that is such a lifeline.

Personal touches such as the hamper, greeting cards and gift cheques at Christmas and on my birthday make me feel that I belong to a large, kindly family."

Since her breakdown, Jones's ability to deal with life has been limited.

She goes dog-walking for an animal charity and cat-sits for friends. She is also a keen artist and hopes to rent a studio to exhibit her work.

Jones's case worker or a volunteer visit her each month and at the end of the year her case is reviewed.

"If I'm in need of advice I know I can rely on the staff at the trust," says Jones. "My case worker will always ring, write or visit, and I can see her as often or as little as I like or need. I no longer feel quite so isolated."

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