When people fall on hard times, when their income no longer meets their everyday spending needs, when they become ill or frail and need special help or equipment, or if they fall into debt they often become despondent and believe they have nowhere to turn.
William Beveridge’s aim when he founded the welfare state was to banish the evils of Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness, but the truth is that these will always be with us to some degree and we must turn to self-help and community help when the state fails us or its resources cannot stretch as far as they need to.
Before the introduction of the welfare state, community aid was centred on mutual organisations such as friendly societies, which assisted the poor with their medical bills and the burying of their dead, and charitable foundations, whose aims were to help the disadvantaged and those who could not help themselves.
The good news is that despite the state’s role in aiding the less healthy and prosperous among us, mutual organisations and charities are still around and can be found filling the gaps where the state falls down.
If you have fallen on hard times, one of these organisations is exactly where you should turn because that is what they are there for.
And it’s not just the big famous-name charities such as Age UK, Shelter, or Mencap that you should look to.
If you or one of your family have been a member of a profession or trade union, the chances are it has a member assistance fund – previously probably better known under an old fashioned name such as the “widows and orphans fund”.
City guilds and organisations such as the Freemasons may also be able to offer aid to members and the families of deceased members in straitened circumstances. Some schools have aid programmes for former pupils.
If you are not a member of an organisation or group, there may be a local charity that can help people in your area, including you, particularly if you are elderly, disabled or caring for someone.
Some charitable foundations have extremely arcane purposes such as – and I’m picking one at random here – “to relieve either generally or individually women over the age of 40 years who are in conditions of need, hardship or distress preference being given to such women qualified as aforesaid who were born or who reside within a radius of ten miles of the town halls of the city of Liverpool and the former County Borough Of Southport”.
Check out the Charities Direct website to see if you can find one that could help you.
You might also get help from one of the friendly societies such as Liverpool Victoria or Oddfellows.
Members of LV= (the Liverpool Victoria Friendly Society) can apply to the Member Support Fund for financial help. You can apply for a grant so long as you have been a member of LV= for at least 12 months. You can find details on the LV= website.
Oddfellows offers an Advice Line in association with Citizens’ Advice, which can help with benefits, housing and debt advice. It also has a Care Line to answer questions about health and sourcing equipment and nursing services.
People often say “I don’t want charity” or “I’m too proud to take charity”. The fact is the charities want to help you if you are having a hard time, and it’s people like you they were set up to help. They may be just the people to turn to.