Imagine having neck pain so bad you have to take a 20-minute break every quarter of an hour of your working day. Even aside from the chronic pain, just think how frustrating that would be, how much it would limit your potential and what it might do to your mental health.
Well, that was the reality for ‘Molly’ (not her real name), a CMIOSH and IOSH member of 15 years. Working as a corporate health and safety consultant from her London home, Molly, who is in her fifties, was trapped by the fact her condition wouldn’t allow her to do enough work to earn the money she needed to invest in the Display Screen Equipment (DSE) that could free her up to work for longer.
Molly researched possible sources of funding to enable her to get the special sit/stand desk, chair and keyboard tray that would allow her to work for longer periods.
Thankfully, Molly found details of the IOSH Benevolent Fund and put in an application late last year. The amount she requested was granted and within a month or so she got the DSE she needed.
Now she can work for a full hour before she needs a break – the new equipment enables Molly to vary her posture more easily and stay at her workstation for longer.
'Getting support from the IOSH Benevolent Fund has meant I can work much more comfortably and for longer, with fewer breaks,' says Molly.
'This has not only been of huge benefit to my work but has meant I can also take my mind off work for longer, giving me the chance to rest and relax more and also feel strong enough to give time to my CPD and attend webinars and online courses.
'Without doubt, this has been a real boost to my mental health as well as my career. I would have carried on without the support I got from the Fund but it would have taken me a long time before I could’ve afforded to buy the items I needed to make my workstation more comfortable,' she adds.
Faith, hope and charity
While the IOSH Benevolent Fund was set up to relieve hardship, there’s a limit to how much it can afford to help and so it has certain eligibility criteria in place. For example, the Fund’s trustees won’t normally support day-to-day household expenses. However, exceptions to the Fund’s criteria can sometimes be made.
This was the case when ‘Sally’ (not her real name), an overseas student whose full visa application had been held up last year at the Home Office, due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, applied for help with paying her rent.
Sally is a 35-year-old mum and had left her young family at home in Jamaica to study for a post-graduate Health and Safety diploma at a university in northern England. Because she’d journeyed to England on a student visa and her full visa application had yet to go through, she wasn’t allowed to take up full-time employment. So how was she going to meet her everyday living costs?
'I’d made multiple calls to the Home Office but they kept telling me my application had been delayed due to Covid. What should have taken three weeks went on to last for three months,' says Sally.
'I didn’t have any savings, my landlord wasn’t being very helpful and I was applying to all sorts of charities for help but without getting anywhere – it wasn’t a nice place to be.'
Then Sally’s research found the IOSH Benevolent Fund, so she made some enquiries about getting support. Although her request for living costs didn’t fit the Fund criteria, the trustees saw the particularly difficult circumstances Sally was in, not helped by the pandemic, and decided to help meet her rental payments for a month. A payment went into her bank account just before Christmas, less than a month after she’d submitted her application.
'I was really very grateful for this help, especially as I could see the Fund had changed its policy to make it possible,' adds Sally.
Other charities also stepped in to help, including support from her local church, helping to pay for food, plus gas and electric bills.
Now that her full visa has come through, Sally is working in the NHS as a mental health and wellbeing coach and has applied to be joined this summer by her husband and their two young daughters.
Health and safety in the UK and those who benefit from it stand to be that bit better off because of it.
Help is at hand
Since it was formed, nearly 20 years ago, the IOSH Benevolent Fund has invested over £32,000 in more than 60 members who have found themselves going through a particularly tough time.
There are so many ways in which the Fund can help. Someone might need support to change their career direction after a prolonged period of ill-health, for example; perhaps redundancy and extended unemployment has left an IOSH member needing a laptop and printer to help drive their job search; or the partner of a former IOSH member might welcome some help with their funeral costs. The Fund can be there to give support in all sorts of circumstances.
'Of course, the Fund wouldn’t be able to do a great deal without its donors,' says IOSH chief executive Bev Messinger.
'IOSH and all its members who have benefited from the Fund over the past two decades are extremely thankful for the continued support of donors. Indeed, all our 47,000 members in more than 130 countries will be grateful to them because none of us can ever be sure when we might face personal hardship and serious difficulty, through no fault of our own,' she added.
'Thank goodness for initiatives like the IOSH Benevolent Fund. As a current or former member, or past member of IOSH staff, it’s there for you. If you need to use it, make sure you do so.'
Anyone who’d like support from the fund can apply here.
You can also go online if you’d like to donate to the fund.