Coping with loss is never easy, but financial worries can add to difficulties in heartbreaking circumstances.
While insurance policies and funeral plans can be an assurance, a death in the family can leave many people facing uncertainties they hadn’t anticipated, including funeral costs. The state provides some assistance, including the Bereavement Support Payment for surviving spouses or civil partners, with a £700 Funeral Payment for some people receiving social welfare.
Perhaps less well-known are the many charities, known as benevolent societies around the UK, many of which provide emergency and hardship funds to people in difficult circumstances. For people who have been bereaved, this could mean financial help with funeral costs, households bills, or a grant to help them back onto their feet.
Usually connected to a trade, profession, service or with ties to a particular local area, each charitable fund has its own set of criteria outlining who it can help and the assistance it provides. Many workers and professional unions also have emergency funds available to help members or their dependents through hardship as a result of ill-health or bereavement.
Here are 10 benevolent funds you might be unaware of, which may provide assistance, and in some cases, financial help with funeral costs, if you are caring for a loved one, or have been recently bereaved.
The Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI) and sister organisation RSABI, in Scotland, provide £2 million in financial support to around 2,000 families every year.
This ranges from grants to help people of all ages cope in an immediate crisis such as bereavement, through to residential care and long-term support with things like energy bills and essential equipment for living for older members of the farming community.
The Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution is one of three organisations that come under the umbrella of Farming Help and also includes the Farming Community Network (FCN), which provides listening and practical support to people in difficulties. Another farming charity, the Addington Fund, provides support centred around housing for people who have lost their home on the land, when they have had no choice but to leave the industry.
The Junius S. Morgan Benevolent Fund is one of many benevolent funds for nurses and was established by philanthropist Junius. S. Morgan in 1890. It assists registered nurses and healthcare assistants who have practised in the UK for a minimum of five years. The Junius S. Morgan Benevolent Fund provides individual financial assistance of up to £1,000 to people who find themselves in hardship due to circumstances including the death of the family’s primary wage earner.
The Fishermen’s Mission began in 1881 to provide sustenance including food, medical supplies and spiritual support, to fishermen and their families.
Today, it provides immediate emergency assistance grants to fishing families, to help cover the pressing cost of rent, utility bills and essentials such as school uniform for children.
It also provides bereavement support after a loss, with home visits and one-to-one help negotiating important paperwork and practical issues that can be confusing or difficult to tackle after a bereavement. The Fishermen’s Mission is also there for people are finding it difficult to cope with grief and emotional issues at other times in their life.
For people in difficulty over a longer period, it can help people find their way through the benefits system. It’s also there for the fishing community towards the end of their lives, making regular visits to homes and hospitals.
The Electrical Industries Charity supports the families of people who work, or have worked, in jobs connected with the electrical, electronic and energy industries, whether in retail, manufacturing or wider industry.
Its wide-reaching employee and family support programme includes financial assistance and grants for individuals and families in difficult circumstances through illness or bereavement, telephone counselling services, legal advice and support and respite breaks for carers.
The charity also provides assistance with writing wills and in some cases, grants for help with funeral costs.
The RAF Benevolent Fund provides a wealth of support for serving members, veterans and their dependents including friendship groups, welfare breaks and a dedicated helpline through bereavement support charity Cruse UK.
Families who are facing financial difficulties after a bereavement can apply for support via the RAF Benevolent Fund to help with essential living costs such priority utility bills and debts, as well as one-off expenses for essential household items such as washing machines, or furniture.
For people living on a state pension, or in some cases, dependent on disability benefits, the RAF Benevolent Fund may also provide regular financial assistance with day-to-day living costs. The charity also provides support and advocacy to help people access the state benefits available when someone dies. Its advisers may also be able to help with the application process for help with funeral costs available to some war pensioners through Veterans UK. This funeral grant applies when an injury sustained while serving caused or hastened their death.
The Transport Benevolent Fund supports public transport workers and their families across England, Scotland and Wales. Members pay £1 a week into this benevolent fund, while long-standing members get free membership when they retire.
When someone dies in unexpected circumstances, the benevolent fund may pay a grant of £1000 to the bereaved partner, the parent of a dependent child, or to a child who was dependent on their single parent. In other circumstances, the charity funds residential convalescence for people who are grieving the death of a partner or child, or who have witnessed a traumatic death.
If a bereavement has led to short term hardship, The Transport Benevolent Fund may help with cash grants to pay pressing household bills. It also provides grants of up to £250 a year to help towards a range of therapies, including counselling.
“A hand up, not a hand out” is the mantra of ABF- The Soldiers Charity. This army benevolent fund is the British Army’s national charity, which provides grants through its partnership of regimental and corps benevolent charities to around 4,500 people in difficult circumstances every year.
The grants are there to cover unexpected or difficult expenses that can’t be met by other sources and each case is based on its own merit by the charity. For bereaved Army families who have lost a loved one, this could include help to cover the cost of a much-needed holiday break. However, the charity is unable to assist with providing grants for medical and legal fees, non-priority debts, memorials or headstones.
The Retail Trust supports people who work in a wealth of customer-facing environments, from shops, online stores and distribution centres, to call centres, banks and property agencies.
It has its own in-house team of counsellors and can provide people who need bereavement support with personal bereavement sessions over the phone, or up to six free face-to-face sessions, local to you.
It also provides one-off hardship grants to cover unexpected costs that cannot be covered by your usual income. Its team of advisers also helps people in financial difficulties to manage and plan their budget or debt, so they can look to the future with greater confidence. The Retail Trust also provides legal advice which could help families through uncertainty after a bereavement, including on matters such as your rights as a tenant.
The Benevolent is a charity which extends its support to anyone who works in the alcoholic drinks industry, from manufacturing, distribution and marketing, to working in a pub, bar or off-license.
This benevolent society provides one-off grants and longer term financial assistance to help alleviate financial hardship relating to difficult circumstances including family crisis.
It provides practical, emotional and financial support to families whose loved one is seriously ill, or has died and in exceptional cases may also provide financial grants to help cover funeral costs. It can also help bereaved families to identify and access financial support through government benefits they may be eligible for.
10. Grocery Aid
Grocery Aid was founded in 1857 as the National Grocers Benevolent Fund (NGBF), with other venerable charities and benevolent societies including the London Grocers & Tea Dealers Federation and confectionery trade champion Sweet Charity, now a part of it. It helps look after anyone who works or worked in the grocery industry from the factory floor to the shop counter.
Supported by members of the food and drink industry and through legacies, Grocery Aid provides support including respite care, counselling and hardship grants to hundreds of people in difficult circumstances. People in great hardship may be entitled to receive an annual support payment of £884, paid quarterly and help to buy or replace essential household items, from cookers to beds.
Grocery Aid has a helpline for people struggling with emotional, financial or personal issues and also provides a telephone-based befriending service, for people finding it difficult to cope, or feeling isolated, after a bereavement. Its volunteers can also arrange to make home visits.
- Further information about benevolent societies and how they can help the bereaved.