Five years after the ceasefire of World War I, the Transport Benevolent Fund (TBF) was established to support the families of industry workers who had returned from the battlefield.
Almost a century later you could be forgiven for thinking that – with such wide-ranging social care provisions in place – there would be no need for such a charity but, as TBF’s CEO John Sheehy explains, there is.
The needs of its members in 2017 might be different from those in the 1920s but the non-profit organisation is as relevant as ever, awarding £2.25 million to members in the past year.
‘You would like to think that in this high-tech, modern world there would be no need for an organisation like TBF. Sadly, there is a need today as much as there has ever been,’ says John.
‘This includes cash grants to help cover short- term hardship from sickness to debt advice, legal help on non-employment matters and also bereavement grants. Increasingly, we are finding that stretched NHS services are affecting our members, who are having to wait longer for a diagnosis and/or medical treatment.
‘We can help our members with medical benefits such as second opinions, scans and tests, a wide range of complementary and alternative therapies, medical equipment, prescription pre-payment certificates, help with the cost of laser eyesight correction and convalescence.
‘TBF is all about helping people in the public transport industry.’
Making a difference
The charity currently has more than 53,000 members and is committed to making a difference.
This year it is the official sponsor of the RailStaff Awards’ Station Staff of the Year category, a prize for hard-working and respected colleagues who strive to improve the station experience for fellow staff and customers. This covers transport police, retail staff, station supervisors and customer service personnel.
‘We at TBF are proud to sponsor the Station Staff of the Year category at this year’s RailStaff Awards,’ says John. ‘It’s a great recognition of the valuable work carried out by all station staff – whether customer facing or behind the scenes – providing help and support to the travelling public, sometimes in very difficult circumstances. That’s why TBF is here to help our rail staff members when they find themselves in need or distress.’
Anyone engaged in the public transport industry in Great Britain is eligible to join the TBF. Membership costs £1 a week and covers financial, health and welfare benefits for the member, their partner and dependent children. In some cases membership is paid for by the employer; acknowledging the advantages of membership in helping to improve members’ work-life balance and reducing staff turnover.
‘The Fund is run by a board of trustees, the majority of who work in the industry and decide on all benefits,’ adds John. ‘Members’ needs and circumstances are all different, so the discretionary awards are made on the individual merits of each case. TBF’s patrons are numerous and include leading figures in the major transport groups and trades unions.
‘TBF is different and makes a difference. Membership is not an insurance policy; the Fund does not make loans, so the money granted is for the beneficiary to keep.
‘There are no different levels of membership fees, there’s no catch – the £1 a week is a flat rate membership fee giving the member and their family access to the extensive range of financial, health and welfare benefits.’
According to TBF, it is the fastest growing charity exclusive to the industry and is committed to helping as many industry workers as it can.
‘If the current trend of need continues we would very much like to further expand membership enabling the Fund to help all those in need,’ John adds.
More information about this year’s event can be found on the RailStaff Awards website: www.railstaffawards.com