The Provincial Grand Almoner, Ernie Greenhalgh, accompanied by Eric Hart MBE, the designate Provincial Grand Almoner recently visited the Ormskirk and Bootle Group to deliver a presentation on the new care system to the almoners representing the lodges and chapters within the group. The presentation was held at the Litherland Masonic Hall. Also in attendance on the evening was the Ormskirk and Bootle Group Chairman, Frank Umbers, vice chairman John Marsden and Derek Midgley, Pastoral Care Officer (PCO) for the Southport, Ormskirk and Bootle Groups.
Once everyone was seated, the presentation commenced with Derek welcoming and thanking the almoners for supporting the event; before handing over to Ernie.
After Ernie himself had welcomed everyone, he started his presentation by saying: “Tonight I want to talk to you about the influential role you have to play within the new care system, but before I start the presentation it is essential for you to understand the background and how the changes to the role of almoner will influence the overall success of the project.”
Ernie then explained in great detail how the new care system has taken just over two years to complete and be approved by the cabinet, explaining how it was originally implemented as a trail in the Province of West Lancashire incorporating the three London Charities (soon to be the Masonic Charitable Foundation). The new care system highlighted the differences it took to process the application form, whereas the old systems method took an average of six to eight weeks to process. This was due on many occasions to having to refer back to the Province to ask for further clarification or back-up documents. The new system is now able to get results from the applications submitted, within a two week period. This new system is due to be rolled out to all other 40 Provinces within the next 18 months.
Ernie went on to say: “While I know people do not like change, this system has over the last 15 months proved that we have succeeded in our aims, and the restructure of the care system will last for the next decade and beyond. By having a professional and sympathetic approach we are able to improve the quality of life of those Freemasons and their families who are in need, by a swift and much improved route to the charities which is to the benefit of all concerned.”
Explaining that the first priority for the new care structure was to make sure that all the clients were able to have an application completed and presented to the charities for consideration in a timely manner. Ernie then proceeded to inform the almoners of the importance of their roles and how the almoner is charged with the welfare of all the brethren, widows and dependants. This is one of the most significant and demanding roles in the structure of any lodge and changes to the role by taking away the paperwork and disbursement of funds from the almoner helps make the role more manageable. Ernie explained how the importance of their role is to the charity; what their role entails and what is expected from the almoners whilst undertaking their role.
Ernie informed the almoners that pastoral care is another important aspect of their role; highlighting the importance of home visits to the people who come under their charge, saying: “Loneliness and despair take many forms and it is only by making home visits that you can assess the need of the individual.”
The almoners are the link in the chain with the local PCO, with Ernie encouraging the almoners to work closely with them, saying: “Talk with him and share your concerns. He is there to help you and support you. We are building a team and we all have to work together, because the end result is we must strive to help someone who is worse off than ourselves and in difficulty, either financially or health wise. The almoners and the PCO working together as a team can ensure they meet the needs of the whole Masonic family by delivering excellent pastoral care.”
Ernie then informed the almoners on how to arrange a home visit and how to identify the needs of the individual while on the visit; before informing about the green book, which explains their role in the new care system in detail. This was handed out to the almoners in their care package later in the evening.
Ernie then explained the services on offer and what help is available to the client, be it through Financial Masonic Support Grants, Health and Care Support, Respite Care, Mobility Aids, Counselling and Bereavement, stating who would be eligible to receive this help. At the end of Ernie’s presentation he showed a moving short video which showed examples and the benefits that the new structure has delivered to Masons and their families.
After the video had finished, Ernie introduced Eric Hart, who will be taking over role of Provincial Grand Almoner in May, with Eric saying: “This is what we like to call the Eric and Ernie part of the show.” Eric then informed the almoners of the Guardian Angel Scheme which is currently being employed by the police and carers. He also explained the counselling service the Masons have on offer, informing the almoners that contact for counselling needs to be made by the individual or by their families and not through the almoner.
Once the presentation was finished there was a question and answer secession when individuals where able to have any questions about the new care structure or their roles answered by either Eric or Ernie.
At the end of presentation Frank Umbers thanked Eric and Ernie for the presentation, Frank said: “How proud it is to be a Freemason, when we saw the video and the good work the care structure has made through Masonry. Thank you all for taking the time to come here this evening, the way the structure has been changed and with the right people in place, we can do our roles effectively.” The almoners then showed their appreciation for the presentation with a round of applause, before Frank had the pleasure to present Ernie with a card signed by the almoners present for his retirement from the role.
Ernie finished the evening by saying: “Thank you for coming along and please take the message back to your lodges, it shows how important the role of the lodge or chapter almoners are as a link in the chain, please continue the great work you are doing.”