Faith, hope and charity

While the IOSH Benevolent Fund was set up to relieve hardship, there’s a limit to how much it can afford to help and so it has certain eligibility criteria in place. For example, the Fund’s trustees won’t normally support day-to-day household expenses. However, exceptions to the funds criteria can sometimes be made.

This was the case when ‘Sally’ (not her real name), an overseas student whose full visa application had been held up last year at the Home Office, due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, applied for help with paying her rent.

Sally is a 35-year-old mum and had left her young family at home in Jamaica to study for a post-graduate Health and Safety diploma at a university in northern England. Because she’d journeyed to England on a student visa and her full visa application had yet to go through, she wasn’t allowed to take up full-time employment. So how was she going to meet her everyday living costs?

“I’d made multiple calls to the Home Office but they kept telling me my application had been delayed due to Covid. What should have taken three weeks went on to last for three months,” says Sally.

“I didn’t have any savings, my landlord wasn’t being very helpful and I was applying to all sorts of charities for help but without getting anywhere – it wasn’t a nice place to be.”

Then Sally’s research found the IOSH Benevolent Fund, so she made some enquiries about getting support. Although her request for living costs didn’t fit the Fund criteria, the trustees saw the particularly difficult circumstances Sally was in, not helped by the pandemic, and decided to help meet her rental payments for a month. A payment went into her bank account just before Christmas, less than a month after she’d submitted her application.

“I was really very grateful for this help, especially as I could see the Fund had changed its policy to make it possible,” adds Sally.

When other charity help then came in, including support from her local church, helping to pay for food, plus gas and electric bills, Sally says she believes that “God looked after me”.

Now that her full visa has come through, Sally is working in the NHS as a mental health and wellbeing coach and has applied to be joined this summer by her husband and their two young girls.

Health and safety in the UK and those who benefit from it stand to be that bit better off because of it.