THE SCRIP PURSE
An occasional newsletter for Middlesex Lodge and Chapter Almoners
FROM THE PROVINCIAL ALMONER
The summer break is probably a distant memory for most of us, but I hope you managed to find some decent weather, had a restful time and have returned refreshed.
You should have received a letter (electronically or by post) within the last couple of weeks in which the new working arrangements with the Masonic Charitable Foundation were explained in detail.
Hopefully, there is no need to say much more on the matter for now, but I remain pleased to answer any questions.
If you want to contact me, please either send me an email at email@example.com or phone or text me on 0788 759 3934.
This edition of the “Scrip Purse” is to update you things that we are working on, and – as always – your feedback is most welcome.
There is quite a lot happening, and steps are being taken both to improve the range of services we can offer members, dependents and widows, and improve communication with them – especially with widows.
The MCF are making special efforts to ensure they enhance contact with those facing loneliness and isolation.
NEW EDITION OF THE ALMONER GUIDE
Following their reorganisation, the MCF has just published a new edition of the Almoner Guide, a copy of which will be sent to every Lodge and Chapter Almoner in Middlesex by the end of October. If you haven’t received your copy by 10th November, please contact me by email or by phone/text (details above). If you don’t receive your copy, or if it goes to someone else in your Lodge or Chapter, the Provincial records will be incorrect, and that will need to be rectified.
Meanwhile, every Almoner with email can visit the Almoner section of the MCF web site, which contains large amounts of information to assist you with a wide range of topics. The link is: https://mcf.org.uk/almoner
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 accompany gifts to Lodge widows. Over the last couple of years, these Christmas cards have been much appreciated by Middlesex Almoners. If you want to order some for this year, please contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org 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, so we can only send them out in multiples of 10), 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!
PROSTATE CANCER TESTING
A total of 538 Middlesex Freemasons received a PSA test at sessions in late May/early June at Twickenham and Harrow. Of these, 39 were told they had a “red” score (meaning they should seek immediate medical advice to establish the cause of a high PSA reading), 27 received an “amber” score (with a recommendation they have another PSA test in 3 to 6 months) and the remaining 472 had normal readings. The vast majority of those with a “red” score will not have cancer. It is far more likely they will have been suffering from an infection when tested, or they may have a benign yet enlarged prostate (the consequences of which can be treated with medication). Nevertheless, the cause of any high reading should be always be investigated.
It will still be another couple of months before we receive feedback on the number of actual cancers picked up from the Middlesex tests, because the Trust waits 6 months before they start to ask those who had high PSA scores about their outcomes. However, up until now, over 5300 Freemasons have been tested across Provinces in England and Wales, and to date, 51 cancers have been found. However, as over 1100 of the tests have taken place in the last 6 months, it is highly likely that, the number of cancers discovered and reported will rise noticeably over the next couple of months.
The MCF are having a major campaign to address loneliness and isolation, and we in Middlesex are working towards offering much more to our widows in terms of support and social contact across the Province. It’s a sobering thought that there are well over 200 Middlesex widows who are no longer attached to Lodges and Chapters, because they have closed. These widows are well looked after by the Province, but inevitably, this number will increase as more units close down, so the task is getting bigger all the time.
Unlike some other Provinces, Middlesex doesn’t currently have a formal structure of Widows Clubs, although there are clubs at some Centres where widows can join social meetings and lunch clubs (for example the Western House Club in Uxbridge, and an equivalent club at Cole Court). Every June, Harrow Progress Lodge organises a widows (and widowers) tea at Uxbridge Centre, but the organisers have found it very difficult to publicise the event effectively across the Province. That is a shame, as transport is provided, and there are probably many widows (and widowed Brethren) who would like to attend. Widows don’t have to pay, but there is a small charge for widowed Brethren.
Ways to communicate better with widows are being explored, so we can ensure that all of them wishing to remain in contact can receive more information more quickly. It would be good to have some way to ensure that every widow is invited to Provincial events, such as the Annual Church Service and the Summer Fete. Also, if there are social events in the Province, these could be advertised more widely. Inevitably, increasingly onerous data protection issues must be considered, and ways are being explored to check what might be possible whilst keeping within data protection requirements.
SOME MORE FACTS FOR YOUR LODGE REPORT (IF EVER YOU ARE SHORT OF THINGS TO SAY!!)
• In 2017 (and especially since the MCF reorganisation), the number of enquiries for assistance they received has grown hugely. Last month (September), they received 893 enquiries. The equivalent figure in September 2016 was just 348.
• Last month (September), MCF grants awarded to Middlesex applicants totalled £15,000, and the total for this month (October) currently stands at £23,000. Many of these will be paid in instalments over the forthcoming year. These figures exclude any grants to meet residency costs of those in RMBI Homes.
• The RMBI has 1097 beds across 17 homes for older people. Occupancy rates for the current financial year (April – August 2017) averaged 89.68%, which is closely aligned to the care sector average.
• The average age of residents in RMBI Homes is just over 89. Over two thirds will experience some form of dementia, and staff training programmes have been adapted to ensure the RMBI are able to support people for as long as possible.
• Across the Homes, there are 38 residents over the age of 100.
• Currently, 29 residents of RMBI Homes are from the Province of Middlesex
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!
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!