Sector benevolent fund to form

Voluntary-sector professionals will shortly be able to call upon their own benevolent fund.

Liz Hartill, director of welfare at the Confectioners Benevolent Fund, is in talks with a number of people including solicitors and chief executives of voluntary organisations to set up a fund to support current retired voluntary-sector employees through hard times.

She hopes the organisation will be registered with the Charity Commission before January.

Hartill devised the idea after Third Sector revealed that the voluntary sector did not have its own benevolent fund (Third Sector, 25 September).

She is working to bring together a group of people to set up a constitution and draw up a list of working policies and funding requirements.

Valerie Barrow, director of the Association of Charity Officers, a national umbrella organisation for charities benefiting individuals, signed up for the initial steering group on Monday.

She said: "The third sector is a growing area as more services transfer from the public sector to the voluntary sector. At present, there isn't a fund for people in the voluntary sector to turn to. For some it's not a problem, but many charity workers are left out."

Patrick Nash, chief executive of Teacher Support Network, which incorporates a benevolent fund, said there needs to be more support for the voluntary sector. "Employees working within the voluntary sector have a right to expect the same level of support as those working in the commercial sector."

Hartill said: "We need to decide if it will be a members' charity or a fund for all to begin with. There are thousands of charities out there and if you say it's for everyone in the first instance you could be swamped."

Hartill is planning to apply for start-up cash from the Community Fund.

"Once it's going it will be self-funding but it's a case of getting us there," she said. "We need to pay consultants to raise funds and sort out policy and welfare issues, as well as someone to administer the money.

We would look to appoint full-time staff once we're off the ground."

The organisation will work on the same sort of principles as other benevolent funds, including helping employees through disablement, retirement or redundancy by providing one-off payments, weekly grants or holidays.

"I suspect in the future, given what's happened in the pension sector, that there's going to be a huge demand on benevolent funds as incomes dwindle," said Hartill.

She has spent many years with the National Victim Support scheme, leaving her post of vice-chair last year. Until last month, she was also local chair of Islington's Victim Support scheme.

The Confectioners Benevolent Fund provides financial help for more than 1,250 workers in the confectionery trade each week on top of one-off grants.

In the year ending August 2001, the confectionery body had an income of £1 million, with 50 per cent going to beneficiaries and the rest accounting for running costs.

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