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Member spotlight: PRS Members’ Fund

The PRS Members’ Fund provides financial help and advice to PRS members suffering hardship due to illness, accident, disability or conditions associated with old age. With over 1,100 grants awarded in 2018, totalling £451,000, it is clear how important the Fund is to members and their dependents in need.

Tell us a bit about your history

The concept of a Members’ Fund first came up during the Great Depression in the 1930s, a period of huge economic upheaval in the UK, arising from global events. In 1931 the PRS Chairman of the time – Lesley Boosey – introduced the idea of supporting Society members who were struggling financially, and the PRS Members’ Fund was officially launched 3 years later.

Over 80 years later and although the Fund’s core remit remains, we continue to evolve, adapt and to be there for PRS for Music members and their dependants in time of crisis, thanks to the generosity of our supporters.

What support do you offer?

The Fund is here to support qualifying PRS members experiencing difficult times. We do this directly through provision of grants, information and signposting, as well as through our partner organisations. For example, with HMUK (Help Musicians UK) via our joint Music Minds Matter project, where we provide mental health support; or Shelter for housing advice; StepChange for debt and budgetary management; and BAPAM (British Association for Performing Arts Medicine) for specialist health support.

Our services are based on individual need and aim to alleviate financial and other stressors.  We are friendly and your contact with us is completely confidential. To meet our eligibility criteria a member must have been part of PRS for at least seven years or have earned £500 in royalties.

In 2018 we awarded around £450,000 to beneficiaries in the UK and beyond.

What makes you unique?

Here at the PRS Members’ Fund, we understand that the pathway of a music creator is unlikely to be that of typical employment. At the psychological level, it can be lonely and isolating. At a financial one, income may rise and fall like counters on a snakes and ladders board. On top of that, we all know ‘stuff happens’ in life. Illness, unemployment, relationships, health – nothing is certain. Having a ‘plan B’ for when things don’t work out can sometimes minimise the impact.

We are friendly, our services are completely confidential and helpful source of support when members feel they have nowhere to turn to. If you need support, or know someone who might, don’t hesitate to get in touch.  We treat every application in the strictest of confidence.

Call us on 020 3741 4067 – email fund@prsformusic.com  

Can you give an example of someone you have helped?

One of our members approached us with concerns about his finances, following loss of work when he became ill. He was awarded an Immediate Needs Grant for a couple of months to give him some breathing space. We also referred him to BAPAM (British Association for Performing Arts Medicine) for assessment/review of a back condition, as there had been ongoing delays in accessing orthopaedic appointment.  As a result of BAPAM’s involvement, he was given a pain patch which made a huge difference to his daily quality of life, and referral to a specialist.

How do you know you are doing a good job?

We receive a lot of correspondence (emails, letters and telephone calls) from members, telling us what a huge difference the Fund’s support has made. Often this is about more than just our financial input. For instance, one of our members had been struggling with hoarding and build-up of paper that was getting in the way of composing. We maintained regular contact in-between visits, and he finally tackled it saying: ”Thanks again for the nudging ... it would never or not for a long time have happened without your encouragement!”

Sometimes all people need is a kind, attentive and listening ear, without judgement of the situation they are in. The Fund prides itself on doing this, whether through the office or our visiting staff. On other occasions, a more proactive approach is needed, like helping someone to complete an important phone call to the Housing Office or to get debt management advice.

We are about to send out a survey to our beneficiaries so we have more systematic data on the outcome of the Fund’s work.

What issues are bothering you at the moment?

The impact of universal credit on our beneficiaries. We know first-hand the detrimental effect the change-over has had. Increasingly higher levels of sanctions continue to cause specific hardship among many of our beneficiaries. Application mismanagement, mistakes in calculations, protracted delays in rectification and/or settlement of appeals has been a common theme. Many beneficiaries have also reported finding the experience of engaging with the DWP (Dept of Work & Pensions) demeaning, affecting their sense of self-respect and wellbeing. Many of the same issues have come up in applications for PIP (Personal Independence Payments).  

Any ideas for ACO?

Given the concerns regarding Universal Credit, and the impact on many charities and benevolent funds, are there any plans for ACO to provide feedback to the government?

www.prsmembersfund.com