Member Spotlight Feb 2022: Chemical Engineers Benevolent Fund

We spoke to one of ACO’s newest members the Chemical Engineers Benevolent fund, who joined in late 2021, to find out more about their charity, who they support and their services, and their plans for the future.

Tell us a bit about your charity’s history

The Chemical Engineers Benevolent Fund was set up as a separate charity in 1934 by members of the Institution of Chemical Engineers who wanted to provide support to their fellow engineers around the world in times of hardship and distress.  Its specific objectives as per the original trust deed are to provide assistance to Chemical Engineers and their immediate dependents, who, in the opinion of the trustees, are in need of financial assistance, owing to age, illness, accident, or ill health.

Who do you support and what support do you offer?

We offer Chemical Engineers and their dependents financial assistance to address difficulties arising through ill-health, unemployment, bereavement or other changes of circumstance. In some instances, we may be able to help Chemical Engineers to continue or complete their studies where a change of circumstance might otherwise preclude this happening. More recently, we have offered careers coaching sessions to assist individuals who are looking to return to work with exploring targets and assigning appropriate actions with regards to their career plans.  This is a new area for us, and we will see how it progresses.

What makes you unique?

The fund only supports Chemical Engineers and their dependents.  All of our Trustees are Chemical Engineers themselves and have an empathy and active desire to assist their fellow engineers through difficult times.  As mentioned above, we are separate charities but have a close relationship with the Institution of Chemical Engineers which is the professional body for our community.

Can you give an example of someone you have helped?

Examples include financial assistance to a widow following an unexpected death; help with funeral expenses for a family with financial problems; payment of counselling costs to a recently redundant and newly diagnosed autism sufferer; assistance to an individual to overcome financial difficulties resulting from a marital separation, short-term grants towards living expenses for individuals whose employment situation and monthly income has been impacted by Covid-19.

How has your charity had to adapt in light of the recent pandemic?

The charity has had to deal with an increased number of claims and position itself to be able to provide a rapid response to address claims from individuals whose employment situations have been impacted by the pandemic at short notice. As the Trustees were unable to meet face to face during lockdown periods, we have moved to online meetings which take more frequently in order to process claims within a short timeframe.

What is your charity working on now?  

We are undertaking a review of where we are now, where we would like to be, and to plan how we will get there.  We would like to increase awareness of the Fund and the services that it provides, making sure that these services are relevant to the needs of our community, whilst ensuring that we have the processes in place to be able to deal with an increased number of claims.  Part of this will involve exploring how to provide support with mental health and wellbeing as this is an area of increasing relevance to our beneficiaries.

What issues are most of concern to you at the moment?

We are still receiving claims which are related to financial difficulties stemming from the fallout of the pandemic and its associated impact on mental health and wellbeing.  We also recognise that the shift in employment for Chemical Engineers may cause a number of those requiring re-training or facing changed circumstances to struggle to finance their family support needs during the reemployment process.  We are currently developing our thinking around how best to be able to support this group of potential applicants.

Do you have any ideas for ACO?

We are looking forward to being able to network with other ACO members to extend our knowledge around the different services that other Funds provide and how to demonstrate our impact; learn from successful models of support around mental health and wellbeing; options for careers coaching and employment assistance; signposting and partnership working; and to discuss shared barriers and enablers.

Please feel free to email if you would like to make contact.