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1. Introduction

This policy document provides the context for the criteria to be used for the assessment of applications to the RCN Foundation Benevolent Service. Having criteria ensures that:

• There is a clear definition of the purposes for which assistance can be given.

• The Foundation’s grant-making activity is effective and makes the greatest possible impact providing assistance to those who most need support.

• There is consistency of treatment and thinking between the previous service provided by the Lamplight Support Service and the new RCN Foundation Benevolent Service.

• There is legal and regulatory compliance.

The RCN Foundation, through its charitable funding, provides financial assistance to nurses, midwives and health care support workers who are experiencing financial hardship.

The RCN Foundation will endeavour to provide financial support to as many eligible individuals as possible. However, the funds available have to extend to a large group of individuals and need to be managed so that they make the greatest impact for those nurses, midwives and health care support workers in most need. Consequently, grant-making is subject to funding criteria and assistance is prioritised according to need. Through applying rigorous criteria all the decisions can be justified.

There will be instances where recommendations do not fit with current policy. Such cases will be presented to the Grants Committee whose decision will be final.

The ever changing economic and social landscape following the COVID-19 pandemic, and the impact of this particularly on those more vulnerable members of the professions who are often on low incomes, needs to remain the focus for the Foundation’s Benevolent Service moving forward. Consequently, the Grants Committee will review the criteria annually to ensure that the Foundation’s benevolent grant fund is spent effectively and in a way that best supports the delivery of its charitable objectives.

At the same time, the Foundation will make every effort to ensure that the grants given to individuals are no more than is actually required to address their need. The Foundation will also require that all individuals have explored other areas of support or finance management before they are considered for a one-off financial grant.

This document is supported by procedures dealing with specific areas of activity. These should all be considered together to form a comprehensive guide to best practice and procedures for the RCN Foundation Benevolent Service.

2. Who can apply?

Individuals from the nursing and midwifery professions who are resident in the UK at the time the application is made can apply for a grant. Members and non-members of the RCN are eligible to apply. Appendix A presents the members of the professions eligible for consideration.

2.1. NMC Fitness to Practice Cases

2.1.1. In the case of being struck off from the register, or receiving a non-interim suspension sanction, for actions the NMC deem to be most serious (as presented in the list below), the individual will not be eligible for a benevolent grant but can still benefit from signposting to other services. The cases NMC deem to be most serious are:

a. cases where a criminal conviction has been passed
b. cases where there has been intentional harm to a patient
c. cases involving serious sexual misconduct
d. cases involving dishonesty where the client is responsible for:
i. deliberately breaching the professional duty of candour to cover up when things have gone wrong, especially if it could cause harm to
patients
ii. misuse of power
iii. vulnerable victims
iv. financial gain from a breach of trust
v. direct risk to patients
vi. premeditated, systematic or longstanding deception

If the applicant is a health care support worker who is not registered with a Professional Statutory Regulatory Body but has been found guilty (outside of the NMC’s Fitness to Practice process of the most serious case as presented in section 2.1. they will not be eligible), the individual will not be eligible for a benevolent grant but can still benefit from signposting to other services. It is likely that the evidence for this will be based on self-declaration.

In cases where an interim suspension order is in place due to actions the NMC deems to be most serious (set out in 2.1.), but has yet to be reviewed by the criminal justice system, or has been found not guilty by the criminal justice system, the applicant will be eligible for consideration for a hardship grant against the eligibility criteria.

It is proposed that all other cases can be considered by the Grants Committee, including where a striking off order has been imposed due to a health issue which could affect an individual’s behaviour and decision-making capacity.

2.2. Extenuating Circumstances

There may be circumstances where applicants are not able to complete the application themselves due to disability or conditions such as neuromuscular disabilities, even though they have mental capacity. There may also be circumstances where a Power of Attorney may not be in place. In circumstances such as these the decision will be made by the Director of the Foundation and Head of Grants and Impact on a case-by-case basis.

3. Definition of financial hardship and who qualifies for support


There may be times when nursing and midwifery staff find themselves facing challenging financial circumstances due to a variety of reasons. in this instance they may be eligible for assistance from the RCN Foundation. The individual applying may have experienced a change of circumstance which has led to financial need. The type of circumstances that may lead to an application include:


• A sudden reduction in income due to situations such as ill health; loss of agency work, etc

• Early retirement due to ill health

• An abnormal increase in expenditure on items such as white goods which they cannot afford

• Death of a partner, dependant or relative

• Unforeseen circumstances which have resulted in financial hardship for the household

• A crisis such as instances of domestic violence

4. Scope of assistance and criteria

The aim of the RCN Foundation’s Benevolent Service is to provide short-term financial aid which acts as a safety-net to members of the nursing and midwifery professions who are experiencing unforeseen financial hardship. For longer term issues, the focus will be to help the individual acclimatise to their circumstances rather than relying on ongoing financial support. The Foundation will signpost the individuals to services and organisations who can support them with this.

Assistance cannot be awarded in cases where:

• A grant has already been awarded to the individual during the same calendar year (although in some cases a grant may be paid in two parts, when agreed as part of the initial grant decision).

Every application will be assessed in consideration of whether:

• The nature of the issue falls within the current criteria

• There is a shortfall between the household income and essential expenditure

• Measures have already been taken (or tried to be taken) by the individual to improve their situation

• They require an essential item that they are unable to fund over a reasonable period of time and that they cannot be expected to do without

• The financial standing of the individual or household (including all income, savings, household expenditure, outstanding debts and liabilities)

• Their personal circumstances e.g. health, work availability, professional issues

• Whether it is a short-term or ongoing issue

• What practical assistance and / or advice can be given by other organisations to help improve things. This could include benefit advice, welfare support and income maximisation

• Whether the request sits outside of the current criteria but exceptional and / or wholly unusual circumstances indicate that special consideration should be given to supporting the individual


5. Inclusions

The Foundation cannot provide financial assistance to meet every identified need for an individual. Each individual’s circumstances will be fully considered when awarding financial support with each grant being tailored to provide the greatest impact. We will consider most types of requests and aim to be flexible to best meet the needs of each individual. These requests could include but are not limited to:

• Essential white goods
• Travelling expenses for attending medical appointments
• Mobility aids
• Computers, laptops and other technological items that relating to a medical condition
• Home adaptations due to disability
• Rent deposits
• Removal costs where there is no free and suitable alternative offered by the local authority
• Storage fees
• Bankruptcy and debt relief orders
• Urgent household repairs / essential decorating
• Furniture
• Medical equipment
• NMC Registration fees
• Utility bills which relate to a disability or ill health
• Essential clothing in specific circumstances
• One-off rent / Mortgage payment
• Childcare costs

6. Exclusions

The decision to award a grant is made according to approved criteria and taking into consideration the amount of benevolent funds available. However, some circumstances put forward by applicants will not meet the charity’s essential criteria for financial assistance. The Foundation has identified the following as outside the scope of assistance:

• Repayment of consumer credit debt
• Debts to family and friends
• Funeral costs and related costs for example travel to funerals
• Holidays
• International travel
• Educational or training costs,
• Private medical treatment (including support with costs associated with the diagnosis of conditions, such as autism and dyslexia)
• Private education fees
• Legal fees
• Payment of fines
• Costs associated with immigration fees, such as visas and health surcharges
• Computers, laptops and other technological items that do not relate to a medical condition
• Top-up fees for care homes
• Grants for dependants
• University fees for dependents
• House purchase
• Vehicle purchase
• Union membership fees
• Attendance at NMC hearings
• Hardship caused by industrial strike action, however individuals may still seek help in the normal way where there is evidence of financial difficulty before the onset of industrial action or, if an unrelated financial crisis were to occur during such time.
• Grants which replace statutory help (including help available through Local Welfare Assistance Schemes), since in effect, the Foundation would be relieving the state of its responsibilities.
• Ongoing financial support

To those who knowingly continue to withhold information or make fraudulent claims.

7. Capital and Savings

When applying for support to meet routine monthly expenditure (i.e. day to day costs, childcare costs or mortgage) individuals that have household savings above the amounts below will be not be eligible for financial assistance:

• £4000 for households of working age
• £6000 for household of an individual or couple who have reached or are over state retirement age


A degree of discretion may be required in relation to savings and the purpose of the grant. For example, where an individual is applying for support with one-off costs that are beyond routine monthly expenditure – such as disability adaptations – these limits do not apply. In these circumstances, the cost of what is being applied for and the individual’s ability to meet the cost within a reasonable time-frame will be the primary consideration.

Conversely, it is not envisaged that someone with £4,000 in savings who requires a low level of financial assistance would be deemed to be experiencing ‘hardship’. For the Foundation’s assessment purposes, all capital held by the individual and their partner as savings will be considered. This includes money across all types of bank accounts, including ISAs, premium bonds and shares.

In general terms, ‘capital’ includes:

• Cash
• Premium Bonds
• ISAs
• Stocks and Shares
• Unit Trusts
• Credit balances in Bank and Building Society accounts
• Capital belonging to any member of the applicant’s household
• Property (wherever it is owned) that is not the normal residence of the applicant or members of the household except if their circumstances require them to live elsewhere due to illness, caring responsibilities, change of work location or the individual makes a temporary move to live with friends or relatives to reduce expenditure for a short period.
• Buy to let properties will have been purchased as a commercial arrangement with the intention of making income and capital returns. As such they are a business venture and will be taken into account as a capital resource even if at the time of application, they are in negative equity. In general, any financial obligation linked to ‘buy to let’ will not form part of the hardship assessment other than where there are wholly exceptional and unusual circumstances and a Board decision is required.


The Foundation does not consider dependant children’s money as savings unless there is evidence that these savings have been used to supplement the individual’s normal monthly expenditure (i.e. regular transfers between accounts).


8.The Household

The Foundation must demonstrate that charitable funds have been used appropriately in cases of nurses’ and midwives’ financial need.

Whilst many couples and family groups may have organised their personal finances separately, it is recognised that most applications for financial support are looking for support that will benefit the whole household.

At times, household arrangements may be complex and require sensitive investigation when exploring the financial relations between household members.

When assessing whether it is reasonable to suppose that any adult residing in the same property as the applicant and partner who do not have a commercial status as a lodger/sub-tenant should be assumed to be contributing the household finances, the following needs to be considered:

• The Foundation recognises that families may have decided for a variety of reasons not to take a financial contribution from an adult family member living in their property. The fact that an unexpected change of circumstances has resulted in a degree of hardship would, in most cases, be considered to be reasonable grounds for that arrangement to be revised. The Foundation would need to explore the circumstances with the applicant in all cases to enable any additional relevant factors to be considered. However, a contribution equivalent to the standard housing costs contribution used in Universal Credit calculations plus the equivalent Council Tax Support reduction (where otherwise the applicant would have been entitled to a 25% reduction) will be used in the financial assessment.
Equally, where an individual lives within someone else’s home, the Foundation will review whether the amount paid towards rent, utility bills, food and housekeeping is representative of the actual costs. If they pay an amount reflective of a commercial arrangement, they would not be treated as members of that household.

Tenants in multiple occupancy housing or lodgers who live entirely separately are excluded from being classified as part of the household.

9. Payment methods

Once a grant has been agreed, one of the following payment methods will apply:

• Payments for goods/services: Payment is made direct to the supplier.

• Payments to reduce/clear debts: Payment is made direct to the creditor or, if appropriate, payment will be made out to the creditor and sent direct to the grant recipient.

• Payments needed to meet everyday expenditure: Payment may be made direct to the individual.
• Payments may be made available to the individual via, BACS bank transfer.
10. Monitoring, evaluation and reporting

The analysis of quantitative and qualitative data will provide a record of applications and grant-making activity as part of an evaluation of the Foundation’s Benevolent Service activities. This will include:

• Quarterly reports to the Grants Committee which will identify any trends or emerging patterns of activity. This will also include data on the applications that are turned down. The report will also identify any issues with the service and will provide possible solutions to these

• An annual report will be provided to the Board of Trustees at their second meeting of the year

• Reviews of sample individual applications to check compliance with all relevant policies and criteria of the fund

• Ensuring equality of opportunity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) through an EDI assessment of the service.

• Any complaints received in each quarter and the outcomes of these will be reported to the Grants Committee.

• The Foundation’s Benevolent Service budget will be closely monitored in relation to the annual budget that has been set and quarterly reports provided to the Grants committee and Board of Trustees


11. Essential household items

One-off grants to purchase essential household items necessary for the well-being of the individual and their dependants and where items are worn out or beyond repair will be considered.

Essential household items are sourced through the Foundation’s preferred suppliers (installation costs are included). In circumstances where the item required can only be obtained from a specialist trader, payment will be made direct to the provider. Extended warranties on any household appliance will not be covered by the grant.

Where a number of items have been requested, there will be an overall maximum limit of £1,000 on the total cost that may be considered. Individuals will be signposted to their local authority welfare support and other local furniture projects.

Essential household items are defined as:
Domestic appliances
Gas cooker
Electric cooker
Fridge
Fridge/freezer
Vacuum cleaner
Washing machine/Dryer

Furniture/furnishings
Single bed
Double bed
Bunk bed
Single mattress
Double mattress
Bedroom furniture
Lounge/dining furniture
Television
Floor covering


12. Disability and mobility aids

Grants for individuals with disabilities to help purchase essential specialist equipment, undertake house adaptation or repairs will be assessed. Individuals will need to demonstrate that they have undergone an assessment by an Occupational Therapist and provide the report to the Foundation. They will also need to demonstrate that they have accessed all statutory and local welfare assistance schemes for help.

Essential specialist equipment includes:

Wheelchairs/scooters – (we will usually seek to obtain joint funding wherever necessary).
Deposits for vehicles leased under the Motability scheme or vehicle adaptations
Special chair/adjustable bed
Emergency care alarms
Stair lift
Computer/software
Home adaptations/repairs - Checks will take place to ensure that the most cost-effective solution suitable for the individual’s needs has been selected

13. Medical costs
Where help is not available through the NHS, financial assistance may be considered for essential medical costs. This would include:

• Prescription costs – Up to the fee charged for an annual season pre-payment certificate.
• Dental treatment – Up to the equivalent of Band 3 treatment according to the fee structure applicable in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland (assistance can be considered towards private dental costs where an NHS practitioner has not been available.)
• Spectacles – Increased costs where specialist lenses are required will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
• Hearing Aid.

14. Essential home maintenance and repairs

Essential home repairs to address needs associated with health, age, access, safety or security. Assistance in a variety of ways to ensure the wellbeing of the applicant may be considered.

• Emergency home repairs (including boiler replacement/repairs) up £1000 and payable direct to the contractor.

• Essential decoration – Payable direct to the contractor

• Decorating materials

• Security alarms – in circumstances where the individual is at risk e.g. domestic violence

• Building insurance costs – Up to minimum amount needed to ensure continuity of basic monthly cover where the problem is short-term

• Telephone installation or reconnection fees and charges (including mobile phones) – only in cases where applicants are at risk e.g. domestic violence

15. Utility bills

Utility bills may be met where there are abnormally high fuel costs which are associated with health or other special needs and where there is insufficient income to meet this additional expenditure.


16. Clothing

One off grants for essential clothing may be considered where health problems have resulted in significant weight change, cases of fleeing the home for safety or where clothing has been destroyed as a result of a house fire. Grants for children’s clothing including school uniforms may also be considered.

17. Other sources of financial support

RCN Foundation benevolent grants will not duplicate, replace or pre-empt services or financial assistance that should be met by statutory provision. Individuals will need to demonstrate that they have applied for and accepted all relevant sources of state welfare support where appropriate.
This includes:

• Local Welfare Assistance Scheme (England),
• Discretionary Support Loan or Grant (Northern Ireland),
• Scottish Welfare Fund (Scotland),
• Discretionary Assistance Fund (Wales)

As part of the application process, individuals will need to undertake an affordability check. This will include a benefits check. If the benefits check demonstrates that the individual is eligible for support through statutory services, they will need to demonstrate that they have applied for this support before they apply for a grant to the RCN Foundation. There will be times when financial support is needed urgently and that the benefits application system may not reflect this urgent need. In cases such as this, the individual will be considered for support from the RCN Foundation, so long as they can demonstrate that their application for benefits is underway.

In some cases, individuals may have omitted to inform statutory services of their full circumstances such as undeclared income or other non-dependents living with them. They may therefore be receiving support to which they may not be fully entitled. The Foundation will remind applicants of their duty to ensure that statutory services are fully aware of their situation and confirm this advice in writing. Financial assistance will be refused to applicants who we believe knowingly continue to withhold information or make fraudulent claims.

When assessing an application, the Foundation will take into consideration whether or not an individual has exhausted all other sources of assistance before they have applied to the Foundation and will expect that they have also considered:

• Using capital and savings
• Affordable commercial borrowing
• Affordable loan arrangements from family
• Applications to other funds and charities

Where the Foundation has signposted an individual to alternative support, further financial assistance will not be considered unless the individual has explored the possibility of these alternative funding opportunities.

18. Sharing the costs with other charities

The Foundation may, at times, seek to share costs with other relevant organisations. This is referred to as almonisation.

Furthermore, where assistance is requested beyond the grant limit and/or it is reasonable to assume that the applicant or members of the household are eligible to receive assistance from other sources, the Benevolent Grants Manager / Grants Officer will identify and secure funds from appropriate sources, both statutory and charitable. This will ensure that the Foundation’s funds are used to the best effect and make the greatest impact. This also ensures that the responsibility of assisting eligible beneficiaries is shared with other appropriate organisations.

The Foundation will also accept applications from other charitable grant organisations seeking to almonise their grant-making activity. In these circumstances, applications will be assessed according to the Foundation’s criteria and processes.

Appendix A Members of the professions eligible to apply for  a financial grant

 

Role

Criteria

Current or former Nurses and Midwives in the UK, registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council

 

Working

Unemployed

Retired

Under investigation by the NMC on an interim suspension (except if the individual has been found guilty through the criminal justice system of one of the cases the NMC deem to be the most serious

 

Internationally Trained Nurses

 

Currently reside in the UK and are seeking to work in a health care environment

 

and

 

Have completed nurse training overseas

 

or

 

Have been registered with a nursing professional register overseas and have worked as a registered nurse overseas.

 

 

Nursing Associates; Trainee Nursing Associates (England only)

 

With a minimum of three years’ service as a Nursing Associate or Health Care Support Worker (HCSW) in the UK

 

Health Care Support Workers[1]

With a minimum of three years’ service as a HCSW in the UK.

Role

Criteria

Degree Apprenticeship Nurses

Working and studying with a minimum of three years’ service as a HCSW and / or Nursing Associate in the UK.

 

Undergraduate Student Nurses and Student Midwives -University based

Whose funding for their UK degree has stopped due to illness

 

Who are fleeing domestic abuse

 

Have experienced a bereavement of a partner that they co-habited with

 

Return to practice nurses

Cost of living during a Return to Practice course where other sources of funding are unavailable

Assistant Practitioners; Trainee Assistant Practitioners [2]

With a minimum of three years’ service as an Assistant Practitioner or Health Care Support Worker (HCSW) in the UK

 



[1] A health care support worker includes Healthcare Assistants, Midwifery Assistants and Assistant Practitioners that work providing health or social care under the guidance and supervision of a registered Nurse, Midwife or Health Visitor.

 

[2] Non-occupational specific role that has been developed to assist organisations to deliver high quality, patient-centred care in a variety of settings.