– but the Institute can help
I often use the insurance comparison to help explain why all professional journalists should join the Chartered Institute. True, the Institute is non-political, so it devotes its efforts to the needs of members, rather than trying to change the world or organise strikes and marches for ideological reasons. Certainly, when it comes to the ID and press cards that every journalist needs at some time – and some journalists need all the time – the Institute provides the most prestigious, multilingual and widely recognised credentials. And true again, by virtue of its Royal Charter, for those who value such things, it is able to grant identifying letters after members’ names to give added status to their choice of journalism as a career.
But there’s more than that. The friendly, efficient staff and elected officers of the Chartered Institute will certainly look after you when you’re prospering, but what happens when times are hard, titles closing, unexpected illness restricting your activities, the house metaphorically if not literally on fire and the proverbial wolf knocking at the door?
That’s where the Institute charities come in. We currently have four of these, not fantastically well endowed by national and international standards, but certainly well enough to be helpful when really needed. Each has a devoted, hardworking and unpaid committee. The four are the Orphan Fund, the Benevolent Fund, the Pensions Fund and the Oak Hill & T P O’Connor Fund. Last year’s Annual Conference agreed to investigate a merger of the first three of these, but not Oak Hill, for a reason I’ll explain in a moment. I have the honour and privilege of chairing the Charities Committee, which in separate meetings looks after both Pensions and Oak Hill & T P O’Connor. I’d like to describe what we do, whilst leaving those who run the others to talk about their separate activities.
Institute pensions may not be as large as those you pay for all your working life, but they provide a worthwhile monthly supplement as well as birthday and Christmas presents.
The rules of the Pensions Fund are relatively simple. In summary, apart from being deserving, an applicant must be over 60 and a member of the Chartered Institute for not less than 10 years. The committee will choose the most deserving of all the applicants. And the good news: as I write this, there is at least one vacancy. If you think you qualify, ask HQ for an application form.
Oak Hill & T P O’Connor Fund
This is already an amalgamation of two long-standing Institute charities, and the only one open to all journalists, whether members of the Chartered Institute or not. Equally, there are no rules about length of membership.
Originally, well before the NHS was founded, Oak Hill was the name of a nursing home owned and operated by the Institute for its members. Eventually it was sold and the funds employed to assist members convalescing from illness or operations. Merging with T P O’Connor a few years ago expanded its potential to virtually any journalist in need of urgent financial support but with insufficient resources.
When life maltreats you, a professional journalist and Chartered Institute member, when you don’t know where to turn, when you can’t even afford the Institute subs, don’t think of resignation, think of the Institute’s legal, financial and professional advice that might get you out of the hole. And if things are really bad, don’t neglect the CIoJ charities. Needless to say, their sympathetic help and related activities are always completely confidential.