THE FUTURE of the ICE Benevolent Fund helpline may be in doubt because it has received far fewer calls than expected since its launch in May last year, NCE has learnt.
The helpline was expected to attract 350 calls in the first month, but 18 months on this target has still to be reached.
'We've paid £20,000 for 350 calls, which we thought would have been made in the first month, ' said fund secretary Kris Barnett.
The helpline was started up in an effort to meet the wider needs of members after the fund's management committee feared that its services did not appeal to younger members.
'The benevolent fund is for all members, not just the older ones, ' said fund management committee vice-chairman Jean Venables. 'Even student members can be assisted if they find themselves in unfortunate circumstances.'
While the Benevolent Fund can offer financial assistance, the free 24-hour helpline manned by qualified counsellors can offer advice on a much wider range of subjects (see box).
'Between us and the helpline, we can give advice on all aspects of modern life - whether it's about dealing with childcare problems or employment worries, ' said fund secretary Kris Barnett.
Barnett believes that the helpline will be reviewed in six months' time, but for now will run until it has met its call target.
She added that the fund was also looking into sharing the helpline costs with the Institution of Mechanical Engineers which does not currently offer a such a service.
Benevolent Fund services and helpline are available to all ICE members and dependants. Former members can become beneficiaries if they have paid subscriptions for at least five years.
Callers to the helpline can remain anonymous, and receive aid in the form of a regular grant, one-off loan or accommodation in one of the fund's properties in Haywards Heath.