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Impoverished who suffer in silence

More than half a million former teachers are living in poverty but refuse to ask for help, a report suggests this week.

The Elizabeth Finn Trust has handed out almost pound;1.2 million to ex-teachers since 1999. It believes that nearly four million professionals in Britain are below the poverty line living on less than pound;114 a week.

Of these, 600,000 are teachers who have either retired, had their careers interrupted by illness, or are carers.

The figures are extrapolated from a sample of 10,000 people and 450 beneficiaries of funding from the trust, which was set up in 1897 to assist cash-strapped professionals.

At present it is helping 2,000 people, including 211 teachers, the largest single group. Nurses form the second largest group, at 157. In the past year the trust has given more than pound;164,500 to ex-teachers.

Jonathan Welfare, the trust's chief executive, said: "We tend to assume that people such as teachers should be able to look after themselves. This research dispels that myth."

Teachers with money problems also turn to their trade unions. Last year the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers handed out Pounds 242,384 in grants from its Central Benevolent Fund after dealing with 185 claims. At the end of 2003 there were still 1,014 cases waiting to be dealt with.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers trust fund gave out 113 grants worth pound;97,000 last year.

The Teacher Support Network, formerly the Teachers' Benevolent Fund, last year distributed pound;300,000 in 414 grants from 542 applications for financial support.

The body was originally set up by the National Union of Teachers, which is still a major contributor to the scheme.

Di Mellish, money adviser for the network, said: "The biggest issue for many teachers is the lack of affordable housing."

Subject-specific organisations also have funds they can distribute to deserving causes. Music teachers can apply to the Musicians Benevolent Fund which last year gave nearly pound;1.5 million in grants to support professional musicians and their dependants.

Drama teachers who have been professional actors for more than two years may qualify for support from the Actors' Benevolent Fund, which aims to give away pound;310,000 this year. or freephone 0800 413220

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