What the Scottish Solicitors Benevolent Fund achieves at present and how it hopes to expand its activities

The Scottish Solicitors’ Benevolent Fund has been in existence for only a few years. However, it can trace its roots back to 1935 when the Scottish Law Agents Society (SLAS) instituted its Benevolent Fund.

The thought of impecunious solicitors or their dependants may not cross the minds of the public. However, private practice is not a licence to print money and the stress of professional life and ill health in the legal profession is well known.

The Fund does not have the resources to make substantial payments. However, the grants that it does make are warmly welcomed by recipients. Net income in the year to 31 October 2006 showed a marked increase to £16,529.00.

Valued support

There are some regular sources for donations. There is a highly successful golf day held each August. This year the outing is to take place for the first time at the Roxburghe Hotel and Golf Course, near Kelso, on Friday 17 August. It has of late been sponsored by First Scottish/Legal Post. Grateful thanks are owed to them. Similarly, grateful thanks are extended to Ross Ireland of Williamson and Hendry, Kirkcudbright, who has willingly given of his time to organise this event for a number of years.

Monies are also given to the Fund by CPD speakers from both the LSS and SLAS foregoing a fee in favour of a donation. Local faculties have also been a regular source of donations.

The Society even tell me that donations come in from successful inadequate professional service complainers, who on occasion will pass over their compensation monies to the SSBF! (“It was only a point of principle …”)

In addition, the marked increase in the last year came about principally (but not solely) from a Society mailing with the 2006 AGM papers. Substantial donations were received at that time, in particular a four figure sum from the winding up of the Sole Traders’ Association in the west of Scotland. It is hoped that this very worthwhile LSS exercise will be repeated soon.

Lifting the barriers

Much more can be done to increase donations. Ignorance of the Fund is no doubt a real barrier to its future success. The trustees are keen to raise its profile in the next year. The trustees will accept all donations, from individuals, local societies/faculties or whoever.

The typical grant awarded is £600 to each recipient at each half-yearly meeting. Whilst small, the grants do make a difference to recipients. Letters from recipients can be quite humbling for the trustees.

If any reader thinks they may know of a potential beneficiary, they should contact the Fund’s secretary, Michael Sheridan, whose details are given below.

The majority of applicants are dependants of deceased solicitors. However, in one case the children of a deceased solicitor were given assistance during their university careers.

In the past year the Tod Endowment Trust (TET) has provided funds to be administered by the SSBF. The money has the specific purpose of providing short holidays in Scotland to stressed-out solicitors and their immediate dependants, who have need for respite care but who would have difficulty in making their own arrangements. Please do not all rush to apply at once!

The first holiday has now been taken (to Dornoch) and was enjoyed by the beneficiary. Another holiday is shortly to be taken to Rothesay. This targeted funding is likely to represent a growth area in the future, as professional burnout seems to be an ever-growing problem. The TET has similar provisions for doctors, artists and ministers. Again, if you know anyone of these professions who could avail themselves of the Trust then in the first instance, you should contact the SSBF secretary, Michael Sheridan.

For the future…

The SSBF trustees hope to keep the Fund in the minds of the profession by publishing regular updates both in the Journal and the SLAS Gazette, detailing SSBF developments. Local societies/faculty secretaries can do more by encouraging local donations and inviting their councils if possible to donate. Hopefully, further Society mailing will shortly be issued to all members inviting them to contribute. Grateful thanks are due to the Society for doing this last year and it is hoped a repeat exercise will be equally useful.

An individual decision

And finally, there is of course you, the individual reader. You can always make your own contribution. Many individuals (perhaps some struggling themselves) last year made donations to the Fund. We are not talking here of fantastic three or four figure sums; even a tenner helps.

If we can, we must all do something to promote the Fund so that both income and outgoing grants will increase to help those who can least help themselves.

For further information on the SSBF and grant application forms, and also on the TET, please contact Michael Sheridan, Secretary, SSBF, 166 Buchanan Street, Glasgow G1 2LW (t: 0141 352 4522; f: 0141 353 3819; e: secretary@slas.co.uk; DX GW 266, Glasgow; LP 5, Glasgow 7). Craig Bennet, Solicitor, Dunfermline, SSBF Convener


THESE WE HAVE HELPED

Some examples may illustrate the work of the Fund.

Case A: Mrs X is a widow of a solicitor. Mr X was in private practice for many years. He led a busy professional life. However, he never found the opportunity to contribute to a pension. Mrs X now lives in a small sheltered housing complex. She has health problems of her own. She has no assets and receives income support. Mrs X receives a six-monthly grant of £600 from SSBF which makes her life a little more pleasant.

Case B:  Mr Y was a solicitor in his 30s, in private practice. He found the strain of his work becoming too much for him. Three years ago he took a nervous breakdown and was absent from work for several months. When he returned he resigned both from his job and from the solicitors’ roll. He is now much happier. His health has returned. He undertakes low-paid and voluntary work. Mr Y receives income support and lives in public ownership accommodation. He pays all his own bills: rent, utilities and the like. Mr Y receives a six-monthly grant of £600 from the SSBF.

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