Railway Benefit Fund

The Railway Benefit Fund, also known as RBF, is a charity which provides support to current, former and retired railway people and their families across the UK. We offer help to those who need us. From financial grants and confidential advice, to online tools and a legal helpline, we provide a range of services designed to support you through life’s unexpected events. Our assistance extends not just to those working in passenger rail, but also to the wider rail supply chain as well as freight and ancillary services.

How does your organisation contribute to preventing suicide and supporting those affected by it?

The RBF contributes to preventing suicides by alleviating financial issues that are derived from the experiences of poverty and hardship. Our wide-ranging grant scheme provides immediate financial aid for a variety of needs, including funerals, rent deposits, rent and mortgage arrears, council tax arrears, energy bills, drop in income, disability equipment, transport to get to work, and essential white goods etc. Due to financial difficulties beneficiaries often suffer with stress, anxiety and depression.

The stress and worry that are commonly experienced by our beneficiaries due to financial constraints is something we take into consideration during the application process, and influences the help we can give. We understand the effects of financial difficulties and debt on mental and emotional wellbeing. We can step in to help resolve the financial problems which can have a positive impact on mental health and avoid further emotional distress which can lead to suicidal thoughts.

We have implemented a ‘suicidal client’ policy. While we can usually intervene before suicidal tendencies can manifest, we do handle calls from callers who express suicidal thoughts. This is usually from those who have dealt with their ongoing issues for a long period of time and the negative feelings associated with poverty and hardship have manifested into suicidal thoughts.

While we primarily do not deal with those who are experiencing suicidal tendencies, we act as a preventative blanket for the UK railway industry staff. By intervening at early stages of specific situations relating to poverty and hardship we can ensure that financial and emotional stability is maintained and can avoid continued stress and anxiety.

What are your current priorities?

Our current priorities are to alleviate the effects of poverty and hardship through financial aid. This is even more important during Covid-19 as we’ve seen an increase in the need for our services, and an increase in the negative feelings associated with financial insecurity and general uncertainty.

We are aiming to increase the wellbeing material we offer and are currently looking into options regarding mental health and wellbeing advice and material on our website as well as signposting beneficiaries to 3rd party apps with wellbeing strategies.

Recently, we have been working more closely with Railway companies to promote our services. We have done this by creating a RBF Ambassadors Programme, ambassadors are volunteers in the railway industry who promote our services and signpost potential beneficiaries to us to gain the help they need.

We have also worked closely with Wellbeing Managers in several train operating companies who have included the RBF and the services we offer at induction days and wellbeing events. We have been included in a wellbeing handbook for staff in another company and we have been included in the induction training for wellbeing advocates who will actively signpost potential beneficiaries.

We believe that this is important for preventing situations from escalating by early intervention. Our message to our industry is that we are here to help at any stage of the employees’ career, and we want to help in getting people back on track to promote financial and emotional stability.

What challenges are you currently facing?

As with many charities at this time, a drop-in income is a current challenge we face and are working on fundraising initiatives to increase income.

Gaining greater awareness is always something that can be improved on and a focus on our Ambassador Programme and continuing awareness campaigns will continue to improve this.

There are also many challenges being faced by the entire rail industry, such as a reduction in rail travel, and a rise in employee mental health issues and unemployment. This directly impacts our beneficiaries.