2023 in review

“The Benevolent Fund can provide a safety net”

Administrative secretary for the Optical Benevolent Fund, Lynne Brown, shares insight into the role of the fund and the support it can provide optometrists and their dependants

animation of a ball on top of a mountain

2023 was not an easy year for many members of the profession. The rise in the cost of living certainly increased the pressure on optometrists who have sizeable mortgages, credit cards, debts, car lease agreements and other financial obligations. The worry about being able to meet ever-increasing monthly repayments may bring on anxiety and affect mental and physical wellbeing. If illness, an accident or even a bereavement occurs, a set of already challenging circumstances can suddenly become unmanageable.

Fortunately, the Benevolent Fund can provide a safety net – not just because it can provide financial support when the going gets tough, but it can also signpost to other sources of help. It may pay for optometrists and their dependants to receive specialist financial advice from agencies such as Citizens Advice. It works alongside other charities, such as StepChange, which helps with debt. It can help with the cost of counselling or psychotherapy. It also networks with other peer charities, such as those supporting dentists and vets, to ensure that it is aligned with other organisations in the charity sector to provide comprehensive services that benefit the profession.

If we all work together, we can bring help and relief to people who are suffering


A supporting arm

The AOP and College of Optometrists’ membership departments, the General Optical Council (GOC) and volunteers of the AOP Peer Support Line are all aware of the assistance that the Benevolent Fund can provide and are very helpful in directing their members to the fund when they identify cases of hardship or people who may require support with counselling or therapy. But practitioners may also self-refer, and the fund welcomes all enquiries – wherever they come from.
Any optometrist listed on the GOC register, or any of their dependants, may apply for a grant through the Benevolent Fund. The application process is exactly the same for every applicant, in order to ensure absolute fairness, and that funds are used for those most in need.

An application form needs to be completed and submitted with supporting documents. Everything is explained to applicants at the outset and guidance is offered to anyone requiring help with the process. An application form can be requested by emailing [email protected], while further information about the scope of the fund can be found on its website.

Our wishes for 2024 are that optometrists – especially locums, self-employed optometrists and independent practice owners – who are most vulnerable because they do not receive sick pay or other statutory benefits, consider taking out critical illness cover and income protection from a reputable insurance company so they are cushioned if the worst happens.

We also hope that more practitioners and organisations in the optical sector become aware of the Benevolent Fund and talk about it with their colleagues when they see them experiencing tough times. If we all work together, we can bring help and relief to people who are suffering more than they deserve.

About the author

Lynne Brown is a retired dispensing optician and administrative secretary for the Optical Benevolent Fund.