Celebrating 55 Years
To mark 'Fellowship Day' we look back at the history and foundation of the Civil Service Retirement Fellowship...

== About ==
The Civil Service Retirement Fellowship (The 'CSRF') is a national charity in the UK dedicated to helping former civil servants and their dependents make the most of their retirement (a charity registered in England and Wales No. 255465 and Scotland No. SC039049) through friendship and support. The CSRF provide a range of services that include two national befriending schemes to help combat loneliness in later life, local community groups (providing educational speakers and leisure activities) and are available to offer information, advice and signposting to a wide range of other supportive organisations.

== History: ==

=== I. Establishment ===
Douglas Houghton MP for Sowerby (later ‘Lord Houghton’ ) stated in an article in January 1964 for the Journal of the Inland Revenue Staff Federation that ‘A pension is not enough’. This article highlighted the need for an organisation that offered retired civil servants a place for friendship and companionship. Houghton’s idea was supported and advocated by J P Wolstenholme (the then General Secretary of The Civil Service Benevolent Fund), who considered the idea to be an excellent opportunity for a voluntary initiative and on the 9th April 1965, the Civil Service Retirement Fellowship was founded. The CSRF opened its first branches in Guildford, Birmingham and the Solent area.

 

=== II. Progression ===
The initial ‘Expansion Programme’ for opening up the fellowship nationwide was set to be completed within five years (aiming for a new branch every two-three weeks). Philip Wolstenholme (supported by an administrative officer and supporting staff for day-to-day work) lead and directed this initiative. This plan required the continued help of pension-paying departments to provide all of the up-to-date addresses of pensioners in each area the branches were becoming formed in.

=== The Steering Committee ===
The Steering Committee predicted the increase of expenditure to facilitate the cost of launching these new branches and the administration and maintenance that this would entail – all reaching its peak at the end of the five years. The income was focused on three main sources: contributions from individual pensioners, donations from constituent bodies of the National Staff Side and on-going Treasury support. In 1973/74, when the full coverage had been achieved, it was predicted that half of those retiring and one fifth of those already retired in 1968 would be subscribers (and that subscription was agreed to be a life subscription of £3 at that time – or for an annual contributor, a prescription of five shillings). This anticipation of a large participation meant that the Steering Committee could ask for these small contributions. The Steering Committee Report of December, 1967 was acknowledged by all of the National Whitley Council and the Benevolent Fund. Following this, the Treasury agreed to increase the pilot grant of £3,000 to £15,000 upon the arrangement that subscribers would contribute £10,000 – this was the Financial Partnership or the Fellowship.

=== The Inaugural Conference ===
The Inaugural Conference took place on the 8th March 1968, with two representatives present from each branch (of which there were seven at the time), the Steering Committee, the Benevolent Fund and observers from staff organisations. This took place in Bonnington Hotel, Southampton Row, London with Sir Thomas Padmore standing in as the chair in the absence of the designated chair, Sir Donald Sargent (who was ill on the day). Philip Wolstenholme’s report was so positive about the progress being made that the conference decided to endorse the drafted constitution, chose the Branch representatives as the first COM (Committee of Management) and approved of the programme plans for establishing a Branch network appointing Douglas Houghton and Leslie Williams (General Secretary of the National Staff Side at the time) to become their Vice-Presidents.

The Charity Commission approved the constitution and that was set out in the rules and the Fellowship officially became registered on the 9th April 1968 known as National Charity No.255465. Following these events the COM had their first meeting on the 10th April 1968, preparing to get started on the five-year programme, opening up fourteen branches in the first twelve months in the areas of the West Midlands, Devon, Cornwall, South Wales and North-East England. These accomplishments were by those very first members of the Committee of Management:

The CSRF's First Committee of Management:
Chair: Sir Donald Sargent, KBF CB
Vice Chair: W.P. James, OBE
Honorary Treasurer: A.R. Gerrard
General Secretary: J.P. Wolstenholme
Norfolk: S. Brown
Merseyside: G.B. Bruce
Birmingham: Miss L.B Ford
Civil Service Benevolent Fund: R.S Hayward
Oxfordshire – co-opted: Mrs. M.E. Larke
Guildford: F.S Martin
Southend-on-Sea: C.R. Petch
Birmingham: P. Reardon
Staff Side Nominee: F.D. Swift
Official Side Nominee: J.H Vetch, CBE

=== The second year ===
The second year saw the opening of branches in London, Hampshire, Sussex and central Scotland. The third year introduced branches to Yorkshire, Lancashire, Kent, Somerset and Bedfordshire – which meant that they had progressed into a sixty branch network – all to be present at the next conference.

In 1970, the Fellowship were calling upon Whitehall for more help from Departments in acquiring the names and geographical information of new pensioners – so that the Fellowship could become the welfare body for all civil service pensioners. It wasn’t until 1973, that the departments agreed to share this information. As this was evolving, the fourth year established branches in the Midland counties, Essex and East Anglia. Finally the fifth year brought in branches to wider Scotland and Wales. East Berkshire became the 100th branch, in March 1973, with Sir Donald Sargent and Jimmy James sharing the chair and the presence of everyone in the Committee of Management. Jimmy James was the oldest member and the Vice-Chairman on the COM (leaving the Fellowship as a ‘founding father’ in 1975) and after attending forty of the meetings it is said that when a fellow colleague referred to the Fellowship as an ‘organisation’ he responded that it was “Not an organisation, but a movement”.

It was the three office staff, who ensured that everything was in order for these meetings preparing forms and letters with personal invitations, a note about the Fellowship and a sketch of the Branch area with an RSVP form to over 200,000 pensioners. This important work to ensure the meetings took place was by Records Officer Jenny Lovelock, Accounts Officer Sandra Brown and Office Manager Pat Lait. It seemed that for every thousand invites, one hundred people would attend a meeting, as there were those who were interested but could not attend due to illness or immobility – and so these became priority visits for the new Branch.

=== Structure ===
Constitutional changes were called for in the 1970 conference – demands for doubling branch representation on the Committee of Management, a regional structure and a compulsory break in service on the COM. These demands were met with rejection. However, Com did propose an increase in the number of elected COM members from six to nine and decided that they should reserve a seat for the top woman candidate in the polls which ironically proved to be completely unnecessary as a woman nearly topped the poll in that 1972 Conference – followed by many other elected women thereafter and in 1974 following the resignation of Sir Donald Sargent it was Dame Mildred Riddelsdell who became the new Chair of the CSRF.

=== Finance ===
Financially, the expansion programme was a tough strain that in five years saw the Exchequer grant rise from £15,000 to £40,000 a year. Simultaneously, subscription income grew from £6,000 to £16,000 a year – accompanied by a yearly Staff Union donation of a near £1,000. It was decided that the yearly subscription rate of £3 was to too low to match the Exchequer grant and therefore, (alongside the exchange of new pence for old), the council approved of an increase to £5 for life subscriptions. Still, finance remained a burden, and so the 1972 COM set up a sub-committee chaired by Sir Donald Sargent that would examine the current and future financial situation. With targets set to raise the number of subscriptions to 50,000 by the end of 1974 and eventually amount to 75,000. A Fellowship recruitment appeal sent out with every new pension thanks to help from the PGO ensured that there was a real increase in subscribers. Thousands of pensioners who had gone overseas become informed of the Fellowship, and despite their being no oversea Branches, a great many became subscribers to the Newsletter and Annual Report of their ‘home’ branch (which did not cease until 1992 for an economical reason – but we’re still sent overseas if requested) as well as make large donations.

== Today ==

The CSRF continues to dedicate in all its work the founding values that were set out on the 9th April 1965, in its first branches of Guildford, Birmingham and the Solent area – that of friendship and support. To achieve this, the CSRF deliver a range of services featuring two national befriending schemes that function to assist in the tackling of loneliness experienced in later life, local community groups (that undertake a range of activities, events and talks from educational speakers) and are there to support in the offer of helpful information, advice and signposting access to other supportive organisations when needed. The CSRF now has groups across the England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

=== Fundraising ===


In 2018, the CSRF team completed a 12 mile ‘Thames Bridge Challenge’ which was a sponsored walk consisting of each bridge on the River Thames from Battersea Bridge to Tower Bridge. Then, they undertook another sponsored walk named ‘Walking the Circle Line’, which involved following the London Underground route above ground which equalled a distance of 15 miles. These two fundraising events raised the amount of £10,000 for the CSRF ‘befriending services’ and one of the local groups that year.

There was also two individual sports fundraising challenges completed by members of the CSRF staff who completed the Virgin London Marathon which raised £2,000 towards the CSRF ‘befriending services’ and a 50km Thames Path Challenge.

Throughout 2019, the CSRF Chief Executive, David Tickner, visited CSRF groups all over the country to raise awareness of their work in their communities and simultaneously raise £10,000 to sustain that work. With a visiting target of 32 groups, the appeal was sponsored by the Civil Service Insurance Society, McClures Solicitors and Golden Charter.

Fundraising plans for this year are in progress - one of them being a Triathlon in September to be completed by the CSRF Befriending Services Manager, Nathan McLellan (who also completed the Virgin London Marathon in 2018).

=== Services: ===

==== I. Phone Buddy Scheme ====

The Phone Buddy Scheme is a service that organises regular phone calls to the beneficiaries. These calls can be scheduled weekly, fortnightly or monthly. The phone call itself can vary from 30 minutes to an hour depending upon the mutual agreement between the volunteer and call recipient. Both the volunteer and the recipient are matched based on the information the CSRF receive from the registration forms regarding their mutual interests/hobbies etc.

==== II. National Visitors Network ====

The National Visitors Network is supported by the Civil Service Insurance Society Charity and it is the CSRF’s home befriending service to any CSRF beneficiary (retired civil servant, partner or dependant) where by which they will receive a regular home visit after being partnered with a volunteer (known as a ‘Befriender’). All Befrienders are CSRF trained volunteers, and the very first visit is a social call in the beneficiaries’ home. After this, they decide together how often they’d like the visits (typically lasting an hour each time). These visits are arranged to help relieve isolation and loneliness, as part of the CSRF’s work as a supporter in the Campaign to End Loneliness.

Since its launch the National Visitors Network now engages with other partnership organisations within the public sector – such as the BT Benevolent Fund.

Currently, the National Visitors Network is not active in compliance with government guidelines in preventing the spread of coronavirus. As a result, all visits are suspended until the situation changes, however all visitors have been encouraged to change over to the Phone Buddy Scheme.

==== III. Local Community Groups ====

 

The CSRF group network remains an integral part of the CSRF services ever since its establishment which was now over fifty years ago. These groups are set up as a source of friendship and companionship for every local community. The activities these groups participate in cover a variety of days out, visitor speakers to give talks on a range of subjects, pub lunches, theatre trips, walking adventures and games. There is a postcode search available on the CSRF website for those who wish to locate their nearest group. However, due to the coronavirus, all group meeting are currently suspended as we are following government guidelines.

In 2020, the CSRF Book Club is still going strong. It now has its own e-newsletter and Instagram account (@csrfbookclub). The CSRF has also started an initiative this year known as ‘Talk to Us’ - this initiative encourages everyone in the CSRF community to get in contact with the Fellowship Office for an over the phone interview all about their time in the civil service to celebrate the many remarkable careers that make up this Fellowship so that we can all learn and share with one another.

== Awards: ==

Community Awards 2019 - CSRF Volunteer Befriender, Ian Smart (pictured above) was a winner of one of the Charity for Civil Servants Community Awards in November 2019.
Volunteer Award – Mike Rogers, an active CSRF Volunteer Befriender, won a Volunteer Award from Volunteer Centre Dorset.
Community Awards 2018 – CSRF Board Director & Dawlish Group Chair Margaret Carter was one of the winners of the Charity for Civil Servants Inaugural Community Awards in December 2018.

== Notable People: ==

Patron: Elizabeth Symons, Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean, PC
President: Sir Mark Sedwill KCMG, Cabinet Secretary & Head of the Home Civil Service
Civil Service Champion: Elizabeth Gardiner CB, First Parliamentary Counsel and Permanent Secretary of the Government in Parliament Group in the Cabinet Office
Vice Presidents: Sir Alex Allan, KCB, Paul Gray, CB,  Peter Jones, CB, Keith Lawrance,  Roi Milburn, Ian Rathjen, FCA, Jenny Rowe, CB & 
David Sterling

2019/2020 Board of Directors

Chair: Madeleine Alessandri, CMG
Vice Chair: Michelle Wyer
Treasurer: Michael Hammond, CBE
Board Directors: Liz Beedie, Margaret Carter, Anne Guess, Patrick Gallagher & Claire McGuckin

Chief Executive/ Company Secretary: David Tickner