Helping British nationals “in proven need”

EVEN IN our affluent modern society, there are always those who, through no fault of their own, fall on hard times. This is particularly true of the elderly, the widowed and the infirm. For British nationals, who find themselves in distress after years of working and living abroad, the thought of repatriation can be agonising. However, in the Lisbon Consular District, which includes the Algarve, Madeira and the Azores, help may be at hand through the British Charitable Funds (BCF).

When was the fund set up?

The origins of the BCF date back to the early 1660s, when Britain enjoyed favourable trading agreements with Portugal. Early records describe assistance being provided for stranded or shipwrecked sailors and later, in 1810, for the evacuation of British subjects facing danger from the approaching French army! In 1897, to mark Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, an appeal was launched to establish a separate Jubilee Pension Fund solely to provide pensions for destitute British subjects, many of whom had been working in Portugal as governesses or teachers.

How is the fund financed?

The BCF incorporates all of the charitable funds set up by the British community over the centuries. As in the past, however, funding is derived entirely from private and/or corporate sources within the community and/or from legacies.

Is the BCF a registered charity?

The BCF is registered with the British Charities Commission in the UK under number 258797. A copy of the BCF Annual Report and Statement of Accounts is submitted yearly to the Commission.

Who manages the fund?

In accordance with its Rules, the BCF is administered by a committee-chaired ex officio by HM Consul General. Three ex officio vice chairmen represent the Greater Lisbon Chaplaincy, the Lisbon Church of St Andrew’s and the Irish Dominican Fathers.

Each year, at the Annual General Meeting, seven British nationals are elected to serve on the committee for one year and are eligible to stand for re-election the following year. Any British national, who is resident in the Lisbon Consular District, is entitled to put forward his or her name for election.

The next AGM is on July 4 2005 and the committee would be pleased to hear from anyone interested, either prior to that date or before the meeting is opened.

Who is eligible for assistance?

Any British national, who has been resident in the Lisbon Consular District for more than five years, may apply for assistance, but the applicant will be required to prove that he or she is genuinely “in proven need” to quote the Rules.

How are decisions taken?

Decisions are taken at a full committee level and are based on personal contact with the persons concerned and/or on reliable written or oral information on their background, and on family and financial circumstances. The committee will assess any genuine case brought to its attention either personally or through relatives or friends.

How can I contact BCF?

Requests for information on BCF should be addressed in writing to the Hon. Secretary c/o St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Avenida dos Bombeiros Voluntários 59, 2765-202 Estoril.