How we have helped
Associate Dentist, Northampton
I think like most newly qualified dentists, the BDA Benevolent Fund had been mentioned at one of the early study days, so I always had an awareness that there was a charity that could specifically help dentists in financial crisis. I never gave it much thought though: I’m sensible, I can budget, I will always work hard, I’m independent; why would I ever need to ask for financial help?
Thank goodness that I was reminded of the Fund when I did find myself in need!
I’d say I’m what you’d classify as an “average” dental associate: qualified 15 years, worked full time, married a dentist, lucky enough to have two children, dropped down to part time (3 days), house, mortgage, earning enough between us to plod along comfortably without debt. Sounds idyllic doesn’t it?
My personal crisis came when I found myself in a toxic work environment. My husband and close friends who are also dentists, kept pointing out to me that I was being treated terribly and should hand in my notice. I couldn’t face the upheaval of moving practices though, and so many elements of the job were great, so I stayed put. Unfortunately this led to a slow steady decline in my mental health, resulting in me having to take some time off sick. I had a very supportive GP, my friends and family were completely in agreement with my decision, and I was pointed in the direction of Dentists’ Health Support Trust. This is another charity that I was vaguely aware of, run by dentists for dentists. A phone call to their helpline when I was in the early stages of sick leave questioning whether I’d made the right decision, reassured me that I needed to be off work to recover. DHST suggested I self-refer to NHS Practitioner Health, rather than wait for my GP referral to mental health services. This was service I was unaware of, but offered exactly the help I needed at that time. I had a mental health assessment, and was referred for a course of CBT.
I then had all the support I needed to make a plan: I handed in my notice at work, and took the time off I needed to fully recover. I used the opportunity to engage in an 8 week course of CBT through NHSPH, with the aim of getting me into a mentally strong position to start applying for new associate positions.
There was still a niggling doubt in the back of my mind though: I knew I needed this time, but how would we afford it?! I had calculated that my Income Protection policy through Dentists’ Provident would cover my own monthly direct debits, but I couldn’t see how I could keep our joint account topped up enough to cover all of our household direct debits.
In a moment of panic, I called DHST again, and they reminded me about the BDA Benevolent Fund. I had no idea that I’d be a suitable candidate – I felt I’d taken all of this support from these organisations, I couldn’t possibly ask for more? On the other hand, I’d had such positive responses from DHST and NHSPH when I did seek help, I thought it wouldn’t harm to look into it.
I simply Googled BDA Benevolent Fund, which took me to the website, and I followed the straight-forward instructions to make an application. This included uploading bank statements, which filled me with embarrassment. The thought of somebody looking at our finances and judging our position, particularly because we are both dentists and I believed we should have savings to back ourselves up in these times of crisis, was almost enough to put me off applying. I swallowed my pride and submitted the application though. I heard back by email from the BDA Benevolent Fund within a few days, to say my application was being considered and to arrange a phone call. I spoke to one of the fund managers over the phone, and she cross checked my application and pointed out a few notable points from looking at our accounts (like the fact we were spending more per month on cars and petrol than we were on food)! This was slightly embarrassing, but was put across in a non-judgemental manner, and in fact was just a useful observation.
Following this conversation, I received another email after a few days. The outcome was that the BDA Benevolent Fund would like to offer me a grant that would cover our mortgage payments for the months that I had decided to take off work to recover. I couldn’t believe it! When I applied, my mind was so clouded that I couldn’t put my finger on what financial help we actually needed and what would make the most positive difference to this time off. The financial pressure was off, and I could breathe a sigh of relief and focus on this opportunity to fully engage in CBT before returning to work.
For the three months when I wasn’t receiving an income from work, the grant was paid into my account by the BDA Benevolent fund on the day before our mortgage payment was due, and covered this monthly payment.
As I discuss my experience now, I am in a new associate position, feeling mentally robust, going about day-to-day life as normal. I look back at my recent experience as a point in time when I was struggling, but which I came through thanks to the generous support of the organisations I have noted above. This period could have been prolonged and more complicated due to financial stress. The BDA Benevolent Fund was there to step in at a crucial time, and allowed me to limit the upheaval that this disruption could have caused to me and my family.
I will be eternally grateful to the BDA Benevolent Fund for the financial support they gave me. The application process is simple, the staff are approachable and non-judgemental, and the charity is there to help “normal” dentists like me who find themselves in relative financial crisis.
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