Most ICE members contribute to the ICE Benevolent Fund. Many see it as a way to help others in their time of need. But too few realise that it is actually there to help them - right now. A new profile-raising campaign aims to change that.
PUT SIMPLY, the ICE Benevolent Fund exists to help you. In the last year the Fund spent in excess of £500,000 assisting 169 ICE members, former members, or their families who are sick, bereaved, in financial difficulties, unemployed, or simply in need of somewhere to live.
But too few members realise that it is there, says Fund Secretary Kris Barnett. 'The people we help tend only to come to us by chance, usually when they are having trouble paying their subs.'
The extent of the help available is actually quite staggering.
It varies according to need and financial assistance is always an option, but often some friendly financial advice is all that is required, says Barnett.
'Often people think they need financial help when they don't. A lot of widows particularly don't realise what assets they have.
The first step when helping someone new is often to point them in the right direction to get them out of trouble.'
Once a case has been established - Charity Commission rules decree that all applicants are means tested - financial aid is often the second step. Aid may be in the form of a secured loan or lump sum grant to help with the purchase of special equipment which statutory bodies are unable to provide, or a regular grant to top up state funds for daily living. Any grant awarded does not affect state benefits.
Recent cases include one-off grants to a young disabled member to allow him to buy a special wheelchair, and to a family to travel to Disneyworld with a terminally ill child. In special circumstances grants can provide money towards holidays to get over traumas and educational grants are offered for those under 18.
The third means of assistance is probably the most recognised in the Fund: accommodation at the Mill Hill Close Estate in Haywards Heath. The estate has 40 flats and houses available to members and their dependants capable of independent living, but who find themselves in straitened circumstances. They are not retirement homes and rent is charged, but beneficiaries claim housing benefit to cover the cost.
However, Mill Hill Close is indicative of the Fund's problem of awareness. At present just 22 properties are let to Fund beneficiaries, with the remainder let privately. Indeed, the lack of demand prompted the Fund Trustees to threaten to sell-off the entire site last year. The plan was quashed, but the Fund is well aware of the need to get more beneficiaries in the homes.
'While the rents paid by private tenants effectively pays the maintenance of the estate, the point is that we don't want or need to rent any of the estate out commercially, ' says Barnett.
'We want it full of beneficiaries.'