Could a Benevolent Fund Help You Through Bereavement?

Benevolent societies provide hardship funds to help people facing difficult times

Last updated: 11 October 2017

For many people who lose a loved one, a death can bring great financial hardships which add to the complicated emotional challenges of bereavement.

Some people who have lost a family member may also face losing their main source of income or their home. In some industries, such as farm work, the place where people live and work may be part of a package that is lost through circumstances such as terminal illness or a death in the family.

Although there are government benefits including the Bereavement Support Payment and Social Fund Funeral Payment that can help people in financial difficulties, there are also hundreds of lesser-known benevolent organisations with funds to support bereaved people in hardship, as well as during other difficult times in people’s lives.

What is a benevolent fund?

Benevolents are charitable funds, trusts and societies established by trades, professions, religious institutes, armed and civilian services, charities or members of local communities. Many have existed for centuries and were established long before state welfare, bereavement grants and free health services became available to people.

Employees or members of particular societies may make contributions towards the fund during their working lives, while legacies and donations also help benevolent funds to provide financial assistance to people where and when it is needed.

Benevolent funds are usually administered by a committee to ensure they are distributed fairly. These committees have regular meetings to review applications and often have procedures to respond quickly in circumstances where they are approached for support in a crisis situation.

Benevolent societies may provide sums of money, as well as other forms of practical or personal assistance to help individuals or families with specific needs. People usually need to meet certain conditions outlined by the administrators of the benevolent society. This is to ensure that help is delivered where it is needed and fulfils the objectives that the hardship fund was established to achieve.

What can a benevolent fund help me with?

Some benevolent societies may help people towards the cost of a funeral, while others might provide short respite breaks, grants towards day-to-day living expenses or with costs that will help someone get back into work. While most benevolent funds do not cover the cost of personal or business loans or debts, they may provide financial assistance for household bills or costs likely to be incurred, as you adjust to life without a loved one.

Many benevolent funds support members of a certain trade or profession, as well as bereaved dependent members of their immediate family. In other cases, you may need to live in a certain geographical area or have particular personal circumstances to qualify for help.

How much money could I be awarded?

This can depends on personal circumstances, as well as the available funds of each benevolent trust or hardship fund and their criteria. Benevolent funds primarily assist people with costs or expenses in circumstances where there is no other financial solution. They may ask you to provide details of your current income, as well as your financial outgoings, so that they can assess how they can help in a specific way.

Some benevolent funds may be provided in a one-off payment to help in very difficult circumstances, such as towards a funeral’s cost, while other hardship grants may provide financial support to help people cope or adjust over a longer period of time. In some cases, a financial award may be made directly to an individual or family, while in others, the benevolent fund will arrange to pay a supplier or service provider on your behalf.

If you are considering leaving money to a good cause in your will, or have expressed a wish for donations in lieu of flowers as part of your funeral wishes, a benevolent fund could be among the charitable foundations to consider.