Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on the public transport industry, and workers across many sectors have been on the front line throughout the pandemic. By doing so they have exposed themselves to the risk of the virus, and many have suffered as a result, with some paying the ultimate price.
Even before we were all dealing with the terrible effect of Covid-19 it is a sad fact that in modern Britain there are cases of need, hardship, and distress amongst those working within the public transport industry.
Physical and emotional illness can lead to many weeks off work with consequent loss of earnings, and whilst nothing can compensate a bereaved family for the loss of a loved one, the Transport Benevolent Fund CIO – TBF – is always ready to help in times of need and uncertainty.
What does TBF offer?
TBF offers people working in the public transport sector in Great Britain, who find themselves in need, hardship, and distress, a wide range of health, welfare, and financial benefits.
John Sheehy, TBF chief executive officer, explains: “TBF is different and makes a difference.
“Membership is far reaching and helps a great many people on a day-to-day basis. Each family member is considered separately and benefits paid are not cumulative for the whole family.
“Monies granted are for the beneficiary to keep, it is not a loan. There are no different levels of membership; the flat-rate weekly fee gives the member and their family access to the extensive range of benefits.”
- Medical consultations, scans and tests where the NHS is unable to deliver within an acceptable time frame
- Medical equipment not available from the State
- Convalescence and recuperation.
COMPLEMENTARY AND ALTERNATIVE THERAPIES
- Chiropractic and osteopathy treatments, physiotherapy, acupuncture, homeopathy, reflexology, chiropody and podiatry, and more.
- Cash grants to help cover short-term hardship when a member is off sick, usually for two weeks or more
- Prescription prepayment certificates (PPCs).
ADVICE AND BEREAVEMENT
- Debt advice
- Legal assistance (employment-related matters and costs related to property conveyancing are not included)
- Bereavement grants if the member or their partner unexpectedly passes away (before State pension age) or on the death of a dependent child.
A small weekly fee covers membership for the prime member, their partner and dependent children.
The only criterion for membership is that the member is working within the industry on the day they join. There is no bar for those suffering from pre-existing conditions, no requirement for a medical, and no age limit for joining.
When members retire they may be able to obtain free membership if they have contributed long enough. Individuals can even continue with their membership if they leave the industry.
In recent years a significant number of employers, having recognised the benefit of TBF membership for their employees, have entered into a partnership with TBF and are now meeting the cost of membership as part of their employment package.
How does TBF work?
TBF is a not-for-profit charity, registered in England and Wales, 1160901, and in Scotland, SC047016. The fund is governed by a board of trustees, most of who work in the transport industry, and they decide on all benefits awarded.
Patrons include leading figures in the major transport groups and the trades unions.
The weekly subscription is not the fund’s only source of revenue; money is also raised through charitable events, Gift Aid donations and bequests.
With its head office in London, TBF has expanded steadily in recent years thanks in part to nine local organisers who visit key sites across the country, recruiting new members and offering advice to existing members. The fund does not pay commission, which means more of its money goes to assist those members in need.
TBF has over 68,000 members and during the past 12 months has paid £2.9m in benefits to its members.
“The current weekly membership fee is just £1 and this has not increased since 1994.” Sheehy comments. “Keeping the fee so low for so long is, in part, thanks to well-managed investments, the gradual growth in membership, and generous donations.”
Maintaining the weekly fee at £1 is, alas, no longer sustainable, and a rise will be implemented in the spring of next year, but it is a remarkably modest one given the benefits provided.
“It was not an easy decision, but after lengthy discussions, the board of trustees has agreed that the membership fee will rise to £1.25 a week from 1 April 2021,” Sheehy explains.
TBF patron, Sir Peter Hendy CBE, Chair, Network Rail and long-standing supporter of the fund, says: “The transport industry is a family. At the heart of this family is the Transport Benevolent Fund CIO providing care and support when our members and their dependants need it most. For the first time in nearly 30 years, we’re asking you to contribute a little more, at a time when we’re awarding more in benefits and demand for our services is higher than ever. It is vital we’re able to continue supporting members who find themselves in need.”
TBF trustee and managing director, Stagecoach Cumbria and North Lancashire, Rob Jones, says: “Everyone involved with TBF is enormously proud of the fact that we have been able to continue to offer such an extensive range of benefits while keeping the fee at just £1 a week for so many years. So, the trustees have agonised over this major decision.
“Unfortunately, it has been clear for some time that further monies would be required due to the inevitable rise in costs year-on-year. Our postal budget alone is around £44,000 annually.
“Modern living arrangements have brought about a change in family dynamics which have also put the fund under pressure,” Jones continues. “We feel that an extra 25p a week is a not-unreasonable rise and TBF members will understand why we have had to do this.
“On the positive side, the small rise will allow TBF to offer increased benefits as well as cover the shortfall. £1.25 per week equates to less than 20p per day and that’s great value-for-money when compared with the cost of your morning coffee, for instance.
“In an attempt to reduce running costs and help to keep the membership fee rise to a minimum, the trustees have approved the implementation of a fully-digital computer-system upgrade, this will be achieved by utilising the existing IT budget allocation,” Jones explains.
Current office practices at TBF have evolved over the past 97 years and there is no debate that modernisation is overdue. The new system will include the launch of an online portal, giving members instant access to their record with the fund, the opportunity to submit online claims and view their statement of funds.
A state-of-the-art electronic payment system will reduce expenditure, improve efficiency, and boost the fund’s green credentials. All data will be stored as per the provisions of the Data Protection Act 2018, as it is now.
The moderate rise in the weekly fee looks set to result in even more valuable benefits that can be shared by all members as the economy emerges from lockdown. “TBF is all about helping people, people in the public transport industry, and the future for the fund and its members is extremely exciting,” says Jones.