Why is Vetlife Financial Support only available to Veterinary Surgeons?

At Vetlife, we get asked this question quite a lot – and it’s a fair one to ask. Vetlife Financial Support is the only area of Vetlife which is restricted to veterinary surgeons. At present, unlike the other areas of Vetlife (Vetlife Helpline and Vetlife Health Support) this form of support cannot be extended to everyone who works within the veterinary profession, so nurses, students, practice managers and other support staff are not eligible. There are several reasons for this, but first it might help to explain what Vetlife Financial Support does.

The current eligibility criteria are:

  • Qualified vets who have been on, or who are currently on, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons register

OR

  • The dependent of such a person who is now deceased

AND

  • Resident within the UK

Beyond this, however, there is a quite in-depth assessment of every applicant and the only people who receive financial assistance are those who are at significant and real risk of poverty. In addition, Beneficiaries must:

  • Have applied for, and be in receipt of, all state benefits for which they are entitled (assistance can be given with this)
  • Have utilised any personal savings, emergency funds and assets (some exception is made for equity in a home)
  • Have approached family and friends for financial aid

Most regular grants are awarded to assist with primary living costs – food, shelter, utilities and basic transportation  – in situations where state benefits, including disability benefits, do not sufficiently safeguard the Beneficiary from poverty. Vetlife Financial Support does not provide grants to cover business debts or student loans, private education or healthcare, the repayment of personal loans, retraining courses or in cases where the applicant simply chooses to be unemployed.

All successful applicants have supplied detailed financial information and in most cases we also require a Vetlife Area Representative to visit in person. Many Vetlife Financial Support Beneficiaries are facing significant challenges with respect to their mental health, which may have initiated or compounded their financial problems.

In practice, this means that while an individual who is currently working as a vet might not be eligible for regular Financial Support, we often provide assistance through the provision of a one-off gift, depending on their circumstances. Many of our Beneficiaries will never be able to return to work and they may require lifelong support from a variety of sources, including Vetlife.

Under certain circumstances, Vetlife Financial Support can also assist with:

  • Payment of registration fees
  • Provision of CPD
  • Accommodation
  • Professional advice on state benefits and debt management

Eligibility for these types of support is assessed in a similar way. Please contact us or visit the Apply for Support page for more information on how to apply.

Why can’t Vetlife Financial Support be extended to also cover nurses?

Vetlife has its historical roots in the charity which was known as the Victoria Veterinary Benevolent Fund, which was established in 1919 to financially support the widows of veterinary surgeons who fought and died in The Great War. Under UK Charity law, a charity must abide by a governing document known as its Memorandum and Articles of Association and it is illegal to operate outside of these parameters. Any changes to the governing document must be registered with both Companies House and the Charity Commission, and in some cases requires the prior written consent of the Charity Commission. Vetlife’s Articles of Association state that Benevolent arm of the Charity exists to reduce or prevent poverty among Veterinary Surgeons or their bereaved dependents. This means that at present, Vetlife is legally unable to provide financial assistance to non-veterinary surgeons. In the future, the Vetlife Board may choose to alter the Articles, but unless and until this is done, this restriction remains.

Perhaps more importantly, if the rules around Vetlife Financial Support eligibility are changed, it is really important that we have a reliable income to fulfil that promise. At present, Vetlife Financial Support is proud to say that no genuine cases of financial hardship in eligible applicants are refused assistance, and we are never in a position whereby towards the end of the year there is no money is available to assist new applicants. This is possible thanks to generous donations and investment income, but before any decision was made to extend financial assistance, it would be important that we knew we had enough money to meet the needs of a wider population.

Is there any help available for Vet Nurses?

Yes, there are other Charities who do help Vet Nurses, including the Daphne Shipman Fund. We encourage nurses to contact Vetlife if they are struggling financially, as we can provide details of organisations who can help.