Page 1: Introduction
Everybody faces a degree of uncertainty within his or her daily lives. No matter how well people plan, it is impossible to get rid of all of the risks. Some of these risks could be financial. Although individuals may be good at organising their finances or dealing with shock events, some may need help and advice in times of need. Unexpected situations can be difficult to deal with when they arise. This case study introduces the role of ‘There for You’, the registered charity established by UNISON to benefit its members and their dependents, including retired members.
With more than 1.3 million members, UNISON is Britain and Europe’s largest public service union. Members work for the public services, for private contractors providing public services and for essential utility organisations. These include local authorities, the NHS, the police service, colleges, schools, universities as well as the electricity, gas and water industries.
As a large trade union, UNISON exists to protect and promote the interests of its members. For example, one of the key roles of a trade union is negotiation involving collective bargaining with employers. UNISON also represents and supports member employees in other areas such as discrimination, harassment at work, equal pay and safety in the work place. In the current economic climate, this is not easy. As the coalition government continues to make spending cuts to public services, UNISON and its members face many new challenges.
There for You
There for You was established in 1993 to benefit members of UNISON in times of personal difficulties and hardship. The charity itself has a history of helping trade union members working in public service spanning more than 100 years. This is a unique selling proposition (USP) for UNISON as it helps to distinguish the support that UNISON provides from other trade unions. There for You helps UNISON members struggling with the pressures of everyday life or an unexpected crisis. The charity offers advice, support, debt advice and financial assistance. For example, members can apply for financial support to assist with household energy bills or the cost of school uniforms. The charity also provides ‘wellbeing breaks', for instance, where members have been ill, suffered a bereavement or where a family could benefit from some time away from the family home.
The financial pressures placed on individuals change over time. This is because they are affected by external circumstances such as high unemployment, recession and the rate of inflation. The business cycle illustrates the scope and size of these changes. This case study looks at the phases of the business cycle and how these influence UNISON’s There for You, both operationally as a charity and also with the provision of support services its members require.