Do we need our own Welfare fund?
The number of applications for financial help to the NUJs Members
in Need Fund has come to include hardship cries from an "above average"
proportion of London Freelance members, some in serious debt.
Not yet a serious situation, but uncomfortable, though we all know the
score about working "on spec" and waiting for calls from the desk.
Although the Members in Need Fund has almost always generously responded
with an emergency grant and subsequent backup there have been several occasions
when branch welfare officers have been faced with the necessity of
dipping into their own pockets to fend off immediate hardship.
To some extent this has been down to the inevitable delays of applications
and responses going by post, plus the ensuing time for a cheque to clear.
Especially if the beneficiarys account is empty or already overdrawn. But
some calls for help have been made at weekends and public holidays and
when the claimant was already close to the breadline.
One way to overcome this in the future would be for the branch itself to set
up an emergency fund supervised by the committee.
This would need the power
to reimburse any welfare officer for emergency funds advanced to a member
in serious need and to be able to make a temporary and limited redeemable
loan to the distressed member at low rate of interest, subject to approval by
branch officers and the welfare secretarys recommendation.
This proposal is not intended to supplant or interfere in any way with the Members
in Need Fund operation but to bridge gaps in difficult situations.
In order to put it into effect, the approval of a majority of members to a
formal motion at a regular branch meeting is required and for this purpose
it is proposed to put the plan on the agenda for consideration at LFBs
meeting on March 11.
The formal motion is:
This Branch resolves:
1to set up an emergency fund, independent of Members in Need Fund operations, with the power to make loans or advances to members suffering hardship;
2that such loans should be made when it appears that the applicant meets the criteria for an eventual Members in Need Fund grant, from which they should be repaid;
3to advance reasonable expenses for Branch Welfare Officers assessing applications - for example visiting members - these expenses also in general eventually to be reimbursed from Members in Need or Union central funds.