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Support Network

Why I Became a Volunteer for the Support Network (formerly BFIME)- A Personal Story

Mike HannawayAttending a M&NW region committee meeting in 2005 the Chairman read out a letter received from one of the “Visitors” (volunteers) of the IMechE Benevolent Fund, saying that “… after 16 years as a volunteer, and as he was approaching 78 years of age, he was looking to stand down. Was there anybody on the present committee who might be interested in becoming a volunteer?”

As I had some experience being the Chair of my employers’ “Give as You Earn” charity scheme and had contributed to the Benevolent Fund over the years I decided to express my interest in finding out more about the role of a bfime volunteer.

I contacted the retiring Visitor and was briefed what the role involved and arranged to accompany him on one of his visits to someone being helped by bfime. I quickly realised that the role of the volunteer involved just ”what it said on the tin”- visiting IMechE members (past or present) or their dependants who had contacted the Benevolent Fund for assistance, either financial or otherwise. The bfime team in Birdcage Walk then request a volunteer to visit the applicant to assist in completion the application form if necessary and, on completion of the visit, provide a brief report. This enables the Grants Committee to gain a fuller picture of the situation on the ground.

The role therefore requires a small amount of your free time and a commitment to assist members and their dependants who, through some unfortunate circumstance in life, have turned to the Benevolent Fund for assistance.

I feel that the role of Volunteer enables me to put something back into the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and the wider membership and gives me a great deal of satisfaction and an increased sense of worth and commitment.

It is important to realise that the bfime does not replace or substitute the state benefit system, in the first instance it encourages applicants to apply for the full benefits that they are entitled to.

It is also important to realise that bfime is also able to provide assistance in a wide range of areas including:


  • Free legal advice helpline available 7 days per week
  • Money Advice – a free, confidential, web-based money advice service linking callers with professional money advisers
  • A general information and advice helpline, available 24/7
  • Friendship, advice and support

Job search

  • Job search coaching & mentoring programme to assist members to get back into employment

Student Grants

  • Student grants (for disabled and disadvantaged students)


  • Emergency cash grants
  • Interest free capital loans
  • Short-term, regular monthly payments to get people back on their feet
  • Community alarms
  • Carer’s breaks
  • Help with Residential / Nursing home fees

Having been a volunteer for 4 years I put my name forward for election to the Trustee Board of bfime and in April this year was elected as a Trustee. This enables me at a higher level to contribute to both the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and the wider membership giving me a great deal of satisfaction and an increased sense of worth and commitment.

There is a need for more volunteers in our region of Merseyside & North Wales so if you think that you might be interested in becoming a bfime volunteer please contact:

The Support Network
Institution of Mechanical Engineers


Tel: 020 7973 6816

Background information:

What is the Support Network (formerly Benevolent Fund) of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers?

The Benevolent Fund of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers was established in 1913 for “the relief of poverty” for members and their dependants. It is a registered charity. In 2009 it has been re-branded as the Support Network.

In order to continue to meet the needs of members and their dependants who contact them for assistance, the charity has evolved over the years and the services provided today are just as relevant as in previous periods. In the present economic recession there are more calls than ever for assistance, and today the Support Network continues to help and support professional mechanical engineers who are in need.


Mike Hannaway
20 July 2009

© 2011 Institution of Mechanical Engineers. IMechE is a registered charity in England and Wales number 206882