A Q&A with Jason Tetley, chief executive of the Railway Benefit Fund (RBF)
So, Jason what is your role within the charity. What is a typical day like for you?
I have the privilege of being the chief executive of the RBF. My role is varied so no day is the same. I could be doing everything from meeting with rail unions and employers to discuss our services; to reviewing our fundraising and budgets; talking to supporters or even putting on my cycling shorts to raise funds!
Isn’t RBF only for retired and sick staff?
Put simply, no. We understand that life is never straightforward and that ill health, bereavement, relationship breakdown and work problems can occur at any time, to any member of the rail workforce. Our purpose is simple: to support rail staff and their dependents in times of hardship.
So, who does RBF support?
The RBF covers anyone who works in the rail industry from maintenance to freight, from administrative staff to station staff. We are the only charity that solely supports rail staff and their families and have an open support programme available.
Do you have to be a member of RBF to get support?
Not at all. We are proud to say we are there for all railway people. We are not a membership-based charity. This means we will help anyone. Regardless of whether or not they ‘pay in’ to a scheme. We want to be inclusive and there for anyone who may need us.
What services and help do you offer?
As we approach our 160th anniversary, we are reviewing the support we offer to allow us to extend our reach and impact across the industry. In particular, we are developing services that support current rail employees.
Our challenge is to remain relevant to current staff and their needs whilst ensuring that we continue to provide valuable financial support to those in extreme financial hardship.
The support we offer has broadened to include advice and information services, ensuring that those seeking help receive a package of support. Our aim is to provide assistance that deals with both the immediate hardship affecting the individual and the underlying causes, wherever possible. We offer free, confidential support that is person focussed.
What are the most common issues you are contacted about?
The issues we see are varied and reflect the complexities of life. Life is a journey, and we are here to help people keep afloat and on track.
The issues we see are often due to financial hardship as a result of old age, disability and are often because of a sudden change in circumstance or due to an emergency such as bereavement, sudden illness or loss of employment. We have provided children’s beds, disability vehicles, funeral grants and have assisted people to prevent them from going bankrupt through our advice service facility.
I would like to provide a list of things we have assisted people with in the last year, but I very much doubt we would have the space!
How has the demand for RBF support changed over the years?
Our charity has a long and poignant history within the rail industry. When we first set out, a very long time ago, in 1858 we were dealing with issues regarding safety and working conditions. Today in 2017, we are looking at a step-change in the services that we provide to current staff and, by extension, to develop and broaden the relationship that we have with rail employers.
Job insecurity, debt and financial worries, relationship and family issues and increasing caring responsibilities are a few examples of where RBF is looking to support rail staff.
We are keen to develop our debt advice offer and recently launched a free confidential advice line for those struggling with debt or dealing with financial worries that is available to all staff irrespective of role or grade. Our aim is to develop this service and extend its reach across the industry on a rolling programme. We will also be launching a service to assist rail staff that may use payday loans and other forms of short-term, high-interest finance that often escalate cost and which does not solve financial difficulties.
How would someone needing help get in touch with the charity?
We appreciate that the thought of contacting us for help may seem daunting and scary for some people. However, we want them to understand that it need not be. Our services team are dedicated to helping railway people when they need us, and always offer a listening ear, and kind words when dealing with our beneficiaries.
Our service is completely confidential. You can get in touch with us primarily by calling us on our advice line or by dropping us an email, if this is easiest. Alternatively, you can visit our website where you will be able to nd a variety of resources and advice to access in your own time.
What can people do to support RBF and to get involved?
We are always keen to have rail people involved in the work of our charity through fundraising, volunteering or simply spreading the word about us.
In particular, this year we will be calling out to people in June to get involved in helping us in developing the support we can offer their staff . We are planning to have a mix of social media and workplace activities around our charity. We like to see this as a little bit of a celebration for the work we do, and what has been achieved together with our supporters over the years.
We will be having a dedicated hashtag for the week of, you guessed it, #BehindRBF. We want to get as many staff involved as possible whether it be cake sales, BehindRBF selfies or fancy dress – just to have some fun whilst raising awareness.
Challenge your teams and lighten the load in a world that is very fast paced and stressful. We just want everyone to share, like and tweet what is going on in their workplace that week. The best part about Behind RBF Week is that we will be asking individuals and companies to sign our RBF pledge. This is vital to us to show just how much support we have from within the rail industry. In turn, this will motivate more people to want to get involved. This week is about having fun in the name of RBF!
Lastly, what does the future look like for RBF?
Well, bright! However, you can help shape our future by getting involved and telling us the services that can assist your colleagues and in turn help us offer more and better support to more staff across the rail industry.
To find out more about getting involved in the charity contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you want to speak to our dedicated service team about help contact: email@example.com
Or if you want to speak to us direct call: 0345 241 2885 Alternatively visit: www.railwaybenefitfund.org.uk
First published in RailStaff April 2017