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Charity in need of help as recession hits BEN hard

The impact of the recession on donations has led BEN to campaign for wider industry support of its benevolent fund.

The cruel irony of the economic recession is that it has led to greater demand for BEN’s services from those affected by job cuts, pay freezes and the general financial pressure, while damaging its ability to help as funding becomes tighter.

BEN’s main source of income comes from a 62p contribution from manufacturers and importers for each vehicle registered – an initiative introduced and topped up since its introduction during a previous recession.

The fall in registrations has severely dented the charity’s income and prompted efforts to get the wider industry to contribute.

BEN forecasts that between 2008 and 2010 the income it receives from fundraising on an annual basis will have dropped by just over £1.5 million, the equivalent to a year’s worth of guidance and grant making provided through BEN’s welfare service.

Chief executive David Main said: “Support from vehicle manufacturers has been excellent, but we are trying to encourage other sectors to contribute. We are looking for support from the used car sector, auctions, the fleet industry and tyre distributors.”

Ideas Main is putting forward include an optional 10p contribution to BEN which a customer would see on their invoice for new tyres, an idea pioneered by the hotel industry.

With 30 million tyres fitted each year the contribution would be considerable.

“About 860,000 people work in our industry and we aim to support anyone of them who needs us,” Main said.

Founded in 1905, the charity provides practical help, support, advice and friendship to more than 15,000 men and women and their families every year.

In addition BEN provides a home to more than 350 individuals at one of its four UK residential centres and offers day care facilities in Coventry.

But the impact of the recession has meant cuts in BEN staff: 40 people have been made redundant – around 10% of the workforce.

Another 140 have agreed to change working patterns to reduce costs. Main insists the quality of care has been kept high. Savings as a result of this and other efficiencies total £1.4 million.

But the cost cutting has typically come from reducing staff involved in awareness raising rather than carers at a time when BEN needs to broaden its reach.

Greater industry-wide contributions, Main said, would enable the charity to cope better with the case work increase last year – around 15%.

While awareness of BEN is largely based on the residential centres, a considerable amount of the support it gives goes unpublicised because of the sensitivity of the cases.

“With more money we could extend our grant giving and advice offering. This is a lesser-known element of what we do. People don’t want publicity when they are experiencing financial problems or they’re suffering a family breakdown. But this has been the area of biggest growth in demand as the recession means redundancies or an impact on income. The spiralling effect of this can lead to depression as well ,which we can be called upon to assist in,” Main said.

  • For more information about helping BEN, email


National BEN week

National BEN Week kicks off on July 13 and this year the charity’s theme is the beach.

National BEN Week 2009 is a week of celebrations to mark its 104th birthday and an opportunity for the industry to get involved and have fun raising money for BEN.

For ideas on supporting National BEN Week and to register your plans go to

Case study: How BEN helps

Mark was a motor mechanic/manager working in South Wales. While on a skiing holiday in 1994, he fell and suffered some bruising. It transpired he was suffering from a rare muscle disease which resulted in bleeding in his legs.

A year later, at the age of 35, he had to have his right leg amputated. His left leg was amputated four years later. He is wheelchair dependent.

Mark was unable to work and his family (a wife and two young daughters), experienced severe financial hardship eventually losing their home. BEN offered support and help with a grant towards children’s clothing and for a respite break.

Eventually the marriage broke down and Mark moved out. When he was re-housed, BEN was able to make a contribution towards the furnishings.

Two years ago his eldest daughter, aged 13, suffered from severe depression. BEN was able to help with Mark’s travelling costs to visit her at a hospital in England.

She was able to return home, but lost her life after losing her battle with depression.

Over the years, BEN has kept in touch with Mark and he has had regular visits from his volunteer visitor, known as a BENfriend.

BEN continues to support Mark. Recently he fell and broke his shoulder and could not drive.

BEN arranged for his electric wheelchair batteries to be replaced because of the excessive wear now that he cannot drive, so has to use it to get about outdoors as well as in his home.


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