THE SCRIP PURSE
An occasional newsletter for Middlesex Lodge and Chapter Almoners
FROM THE PROVINCIAL ALMONER
This newsletter includes further details of changes taking place as the Masonic Charitable Foundation has absorbed and reorganised the four charities into a single charity.
This is proceeding on schedule, but there will be changes to the way that Lodge and Chapter Almoners operate.
Whilst some Almoners may see these as diluting their work, they are intended to relieve you of some administrative tasks and allow more time to concentrate on the key role you hold, which is to ensure that members and dependents in your Lodges and Chapters are well looked after in times of need.
Also, the changes only apply to grants for daily living expenses – so the mechanism for paying all other grants remains unchanged.
MCF CHRISTMAS CARDS –
I am pleased to announce that the Masonic Charitable Foundation has again supplied packs of Christmas cards to Lodge and Chapter Almoners free of charge for their use when sending seasons’ greetings to members who are unable to attend the Lodge and to Lodge widows.
Last year the availability of the Christmas cards was much appreciated by Middlesex Almoners.
If you want to order cards, please contact me by email at email@example.com. or drop me a line at 211 Lincoln Avenue, Twickenham, TW2 6NL, stating both the number of packs required (there are 10 cards per pack) and the address to which they should be sent.
Please let me have all applications by no later than 18th November – First come, first served!
UPDATE ON CHANGES TO THE CENTRAL MASONIC CHARITIES –
As reported in previous issues of the “Scrip Purse”, a major change to the structure and operation of the Central Masonic Charities.
The four Central Masonic Charities have merged into a single charity called the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF).
When the full process is complete, there will be certain differences in the ways that Provinces and Lodges interface with the MCF.
These were outlined in the last issue of the “Scrip Purse”, so if you don’t have access to it, please let me know and I will forward it to you.
The current status of the integration process is as follows:
April 2016 – Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) officially took over from the four charities. New MCF web site, email addresses for staff, also new publicity material and grant application forms introduced.
August 2016 – Development of updated materials for Lodge Almoners commenced with target date for distribution to Lodge Almoners early in 2017
Nov 2016 – Provincial Almoners to receive training of use of new Provincial Almoner “portal” (portal = new database that allows Provincial Almoners to go on-line to see the exact status of all their Provincial cases). Also, Provincial Almoners to be briefed on new application form and assessment criteria.
Jan 2017 – Provincial Almoner Portal becomes operational for all new applications, although existing cases will be “migrated” to the new system over time.
Jan 2017 – Direct payments of daily living expense grants commences, also direct notification of application outcomes to applicant commences.
As above, the main date of relevance to Lodge and Chapter Almoners is January 2017, as from that time it is intended that Provinces, Lodges and Chapters will no longer distribute grants for assistance with daily living expenses on behalf of the MCF.
This means that a Lodge/Chapter Almoner (and Treasurer) will no longer be responsible for receiving grant payments from the Provincial Almoner and for paying the grants to recipients.
From that point, the MCF will pay the grants directly to individual recipients.
A possible future change relates to grant application forms to the MCF. Under the present system, a Lodge/Chapter Almoner or a Brother nominated by the Provincial Almoner visits the applicant in their own home and to complete the application form with them. Currently a pilot scheme is being trialled in a small number of Provinces where this process is undertaken by a “Visiting Volunteer” or “Application Support Officer” nominated by the Province.
These individuals are trained by the MCF to a much higher level to meet and standardise their requirements, so they will have specialist knowledge beyond what can currently be expected from a Lodge/Chapter Almoner.
Hence the Lodge/Chapter Almoner would be relieved of the burden of having to complete applications and secure all the supporting paperwork.
I shall keep you informed with progress of this pilot project.
SOME HANDY FACTS FOR YOUR LODGE REPORT (IF EVER YOU ARE SHORT OF THINGS TO SAY!!) –
The RMBI care homes have 1091 beds across 17 homes. Occupancy rate over the last year was 94.2% (comparing favourably with the care sector average of approx. 91%). The RMBI employs 1500 staff (many of whom are part-time)
26 residents in those homes are from the Province of Middlesex
In 1850, the first RMBI Home was opened in East Croydon, named the “Asylum for Worthy, Aged and Decayed Freemasons”.
The average age of residents is currently just under 90
In 2015 the Trust for Girls and Boys accepted 222 new beneficiaries and continued to provide ongoing support for around 1250 children and young adults.
In 2015, the Samaritan Fund provided £1,478,768 in grants to Freemasons and dependents for medical purposes.
The Masonic Charitable Foundation offers not just a very wide range of support services to Freemasons and dependents in times of need, but in doing so, it distributes a very significant sum of money annually to a large number of individuals. You should bear this in mind when considering the needs of your members and dependents. It is always worth checking whether or not the MCF might be able to assist someone with a health, mobility or financial need, or perhaps longer term care.
MOBILITY SCOOTER AVAILABLE ON LOAN –
The Staines Lodge of Mark Master Masons has very kindly made us aware that they own a recently serviced mobility scooter that they are willing to loan to any needy Brother.
It must be emphasised that this is a loan arrangement, and they will retain ownership of the scooter.
A longer term loan is possible, but when there is no further use for it, the scooter must be returned to Staines Lodge of Mark Master Masons.
If any Almoner has a potential user for the scooter, please contact me and I will put you in touch with Staines Mark Lodge.
WHY SOME APPLICATIONS FOR FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE FAIL –
Sometimes an application to the MCF for financial assistance is unsuccessful, and there is always a good reason if that happens. The following may help you to understand some of them:
The MSF is there to help people in genuine hardship, and they have strict rules to determine that. A few Freemasons (irrespective of their financial situation) may believe they are entitled to apply for assistance on the basis of “paying in for years” or undertaking a lot of Masonic good works– so to them it’s a bit like making a claim on an insurance policy. When it comes to assistance with daily living expense claims, it isn’t like that! The MCF has to be satisfied that the applicant is facing genuine financial hardship.
The applicant must already be receiving maximum entitlements from the Department of Work and Pensions and their local authority prior to the time of making application to the MCF, or must have started the process to apply for them.
The MCF has limits on the amount of annual income an applicant can have before a claim will be considered. Currently these figures are an annual income of £9000 for a single pensioner (£13000 for a couple) and £10,500 for a single person of working age (£16,800 for a couple) However, essential living costs (utility bills, rent, mortgage interest, council tax etc) are taken into account, so don’t be too daunted by these figures if it is a borderline case.
Allowance is also made for “disregarded income” – so any disability benefits, child related benefits, grants from other Central Masonic Charity awards (including the Mark Benevolent Fund) and grants from Lodges or Provinces will disregarded in the financial assessment.
Sometimes applications are made when the applicant has a substantial amount in savings because the applicant doesn’t wants to touch them (instead trying to preserve them for a rainy day or for retirement). The MCF will not accept this, because their criterion is genuine financial hardship. Their limit for capital is £13,000 for an individual or £18,000 for a couple.
Applications where the applicant owns more than one property will not succeed. This includes holiday homes at home or abroad.
The above is intended as a general guide, and it is always preferable to check before making an application if there is any doubt about whether it will succeed.
Finally, the above guidelines only apply to applications for assistance with daily living expenses.
Applications for assistance with medical or mobility issues (as covered by the former Masonic Samaritan Fund), for assistance with education or child related issues (as covered by the former Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys) or for RMBI care homes have their own separate criteria.
Finally, as always, thank you for all your hard work.
You may be assured that there are a considerable number of Middlesex Freemasons and their dependents who have been very grateful for the diligence and kindness of a Lodge or Chapter Almoner at times of great need.
You can, and do, really make a difference!