The benevolent fund of the RICS, LionHeart, is there to help members no matter where they are in the world.
In its 2016 impact report, CEO of LionHeart Davina Goodchild said: “Our aim is to ensure that no one ever faces a problem alone. With our expert advice and support, we want to help prevent life’s problems from becoming life’s crises”.
LionHeart provides help to RICS members when the unexpected and the unfortunate happens. The organisation has helped many members through difficulties and although based in the UK, is open to RICS/SCSI members and their families living in Ireland or anywhere else in the world. The charity wants more Irish members to ask for its help if they need it.
Coping with unemployment
One of the situations in which LionHeart can help is if a member loses their job. Two Irish surveyors, a husband and wife, had the misfortune to both lose their jobs around the same time. Their savings were soon exhausted and they went into arrears on their mortgage. Their stress was compounded by the fact they had two school-aged children to support.
In the first instance, LionHeart provided financial assistance and waived the couple’s RICS membership fees. The woman entered LionHeart’s back to work scheme while the man was doing a surveying placement to widen his scope for employment. With the help of LionHeart, the couple’s home was not repossessed and the children’s schooling suffered little disruption. After some time and help, the woman gained employment again and financial assistance from LionHeart stopped.
This is just one area where LionHeart can provide help but there are many others. LionHeart offers grants, gives financial advice on debt management and runs financial workshops. It can also guide surveyors about things like pensions, retirement, running a small business, RICS concessions, and what benefits are available to older people, lone parents and the bereaved.
“The organisation has helped many members through difficulties and although based in the UK, is open to RICS/SCSI members and their families living in Ireland or anywhere else in the world.”
Former trustee of LionHeart, Barry Smyth of dVW Smyth said: “All services of LionHeart are available to Irish surveyors, including monetary assistance, counselling, retraining, etc.”.
LionHeart can help surveyors deal with any problems they may be facing. It provides a counselling service and advice on bereavement, mental ill health, and workplace bullying, and offers support for LGBT surveyors. LionHeart also gives career advice and runs its own back to work scheme. The fund operates a legal helpline and there are online resources on networking, personal branding and interview skills, along with a well-being website called Live Well – www.livewell.optum.com/member/default.asp.
Counselling can be a tough thing for many people to enter into but those who have tried it know that it can help. LionHeart provides counselling to help members cope with or make sense of dramatic changes in their lives such as loss, stress, mental health difficulties and relationships with the people around them.
LionHeart says that: “The idea of seeing a counsellor might seem frightening, but many people find it very helpful to explore how they feel in a safe and non-judgmental environment, and work out coping strategies”.
“LionHeart offers grants, gives financial advice on debt management and runs financial workshops. It can also guide surveyors about things like pensions, retirement, running a small business, RICS concessions, and what benefits are available to older people, lone parents and the bereaved.”
Reach out if you need to
LionHeart is here to help and there is concern that the organisation gets very few Irish applications. It is currently only helping one person in Ireland but has been invaluable to people here in the past. Smyth said: “Many members have sought and received assistance over the years. In many years, despite generous contributions from the members here, the payments from LionHeart exceeded those donations. The relatively few seeking assistance at the moment presumably reflects the improved economy and increased activity in the areas in which surveyors work”.
But some problems are not economic and things can go down for people even if the stock prices are up. In one case where LionHeart helped an Irish member, the member was diagnosed with mental health difficulties and unable to continue his employment. LionHeart provided him with financial assistance and gave him help and advice on claiming certain benefits available to him. He was supported as he went through the process of being diagnosed with bipolar depression. LionHeart financial assistance ceased after he received an inheritance.
In another situation, in 1998 an RICS member died in an accident leaving his wife as the sole carer for their severely disabled daughter. LionHeart has been assisting this family financially, including paying for respite care for the daughter, and providing a holiday grant to the surveyor’s widow.
Smyth said: “LionHeart is willing to help more people in Ireland and is looking to do so in the sense that it would like members to know of its existence, the benefits of its services and to ensure that no one is missed out or overlooked”.
LionHeart can also help in situations of marriage and family breakdown. One member separated from her husband and ended up responsible for her two young twin daughters. She was unable to remain in her employment and went into arrears on her mortgage. She first contacted LionHeart as she was unable to pay her RICS membership fees.
She had substantial debts and there was a repossession notice on her home. LionHeart helped her to get in touch with a debt advice agency and gave her a grant for living expenses. She was able to sell her home and move into a smaller one, which was more financially manageable. She found a job and was able to manage again without assistance from LionHeart.
“LionHeart is willing to help more people in Ireland and is looking to do so in the sense that it would like members to know of its existence, the benefits of its services and to ensure that no one is missed out or overlooked.”
Donating to and reaching LionHeart
Irish members run an annual golf outing at Woodbrook Golf Club in Bray in aid of LionHeart each June. 2016’s event raised €9,000 for the charity. Next year’s event will take place on Friday, June 16, 2017. The members of the committee that runs the outing are Paddy O’Donoghue, Edward Lyons, Fintan Bennett, John Younge and Philip Chambers. New volunteers for this and other LionHeart activities are required, especially younger members.
If any members would like to organise any other event to benefit LionHeart, they should get in contact with Barry Smyth.
If you wish to make a donation, there is a provision for one to be made with your annual subscription to the RICS. In 2015, this amounted to €4,337 from Irish members and Smyth would like to say thank you to all who donated.
He added: “Members and groups within the Society also make donations from time to time”. For example, at Christmas time donations can be made in lieu of Christmas cards. Donations can also be made at certain special events. Usually these donations are made care of the SCSI. If you or anyone you know is in need of assistance from LionHeart, there are three ways it can be accessed. Firstly, there is the charity’s website, www.lionheart.org.uk. Here you can request help and find resources that may be valuable in themselves. You can also contact LionHeart by email: email@example.com or telephone: 0044 247 6466 696. Alternatively, you can get in touch the SCSI, who will put you in touch with Barry Smyth or directly with LionHeart.