As we near the festive season, a look at a charity that supports those dentists struggling at this time of the year
When the BDA Benevolent Fund was founded in 1882 to offer support to dentists and their dependents – who through old age or illness could no longer financially support themselves – the welfare state did not exist. Four dentists started the Fund to assist their colleagues who had fallen on hard times, when the only alternatives were the workhouse or a debtors’ prison.
After 130 years, the BDA Benevolent Fund continues to provide much needed help to dentists and their families who find themselves in financial difficulties.
Although the state today delivers a level of financial support to those who cannot work, society is considerably more complex that it was over a century ago.
Today’s working professionals are likely to have unavoidable commitments, which they find difficult to meet when their income is compromised through chronic illness or serious accident. Bereavement and family breakdown can also be contributory factors in financial hardship.
Did you know?
• Applications from the BDA Benevolent Fund are predominantly of working age
• Only about a sixth are above pension age
• Over half are between 40 and 60
• A significant number are in their 20s and 30s
• A growing number of applications are the result of stress and mental health problems
• There are often feelings of shame and failure
Part of the task faced by the Fund is to dispel the notion that dentists are in some strange way not worthy of help, or that they should somehow be immune from the shocks and changes in life that can occur out of the blue.
The Fund considers every application in absolute confidence. Each applicant is visited and reassured, and their financial needs assessed individually.
This ensures that the help or guidance offered is always appropriate to meet their specific needs – for example, a one-off grant to pay off a worrying debt, or to purchase a washing machine, or help to provide or adapt facilities for a disabled applicant.
Sometimes a family’s income may be permanently reduced. Most of the Fund’s current regular beneficiaries are receiving some kind of means-tested state benefits. When this happens the Fund is able to step in with a regular grant to help towards their essential living expenses, and this regular support is invaluable in restoring dignity and self-respect.
Other help offered by the BDA Benevolent Fund may take the form of an interest-free loan to help out in an emergency. This can enable the dentist in distress to keep going until they are back on their feet.
In spite of its long history, one of the Fund’s problems is still the number of dentists who are unaware of the help it offers. For many potential applicants, there is also an understandable reluctance to make the initial approach.
Dentistry is a proud, caring profession and society regards its practitioners as relatively privileged. There are often feelings of shame and failure attached to the idea of asking for assistance, even though the causes of distress may be outside the individual’s control.
Nowadays, the Fund is managed by a Board of Trustees from all over the UK – and representing all areas of dentistry.
These dedicated people freely donate their time and experience to helping their colleagues.
Applicants to the Fund are from all age groups, but are predominantly of working age – only about a sixth are above pension age. Over half are between 40 and 60, and, sadly, a significant number are in their 20s and 30s. A growing number of applications are the result of stress and mental health problems. The Benevolent Fund continues to work closely with the Dentists’ Health Support Trust in supporting addicts and their families.
In 2011, the BDA Benevolent Fund received more applications than ever before. Although it is has had 130 years of great success, it must continue to change and adapt to meet current and future needs. It relies solely on the support of dentists themselves, needing your help to maintain its ongoing help and guidance to those fellow dentists who are suffering, through whatever cause, ‘the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.’
All enquiries are considered in confidence.
The BDA Benevolent Fund is a registered charity no. 208146.