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Our history

We’ve been supporting civil servants for generations.

When times are tough, we listen without judgement and offer practical, financial and emotional support.

Charity for Civil Service (registered as the Civil Service Benevolent Fund) was founded in 1886, originally to support destitute widows and orphans of civil servants.

We’ve moved on a lot since then. The Civil Service has too. We both adapt to changing needs and circumstances.


1854 Northcote Trevelyan Report

The origin’s of today’s Civil Service

There have been offices of state dating back centuries, but were mostly based on patronage to the Monarch, with secretariats supporting their leaders within the Royal Court.
The 1854 Northcote-Trevelyan report recommended a permanent, unified, politically neutral civil service, with appointments made on merit rather than patronage. In 1855 a Civil Service Commission was established.


Queen Victoria

A new benevolent fund

With no pensions or survivor benefits (the Old Age Pensions Act didn’t come in until 1908), leaders of the Civil Service at the time began exploring options to provide for widows and orphans of civil servants who died in service.

There were around 50,000 men (they all were then) employed in the Civil Service at this time, a number that is around ten times that today (and is a more diverse representation of the wider society it serves).
The decision was made in 1886 to form a benevolent fund for servants of Her Majesty’s Civil Service, seeking contributions from civil servants, and inviting applications from widows and orphans in poverty. Queen Victoria became Patron the same year, contributing from the Privy Purse, and the Charity has retained Monarch patronage since.
(cc) Creative Commons
Queen Victoria by Alexander Bassano, 1882
National Portrait Gallery, London, NPG x95802


The Civil Service Insurance Society (CSIS) is formed

Recognising the need for insurance against injury, fire, sickness and malady, the Civil Service Benevolent Fund helps establish a mutual insurance society for civil servants in 1890, with proceeds to reinvest in its growth and improve society for the community.


Manchester / Piccadilly

The first regional development committees are established

With a unified Civil Service came expansion from the secretariats clustered around Whitehall to workplaces and offices nationwide.
The Charity’s reach grew, with regional development committees formed in Manchester, Edinburgh, Birmingham, and Bristol in 1908. These committees were responsible for collecting dues and receiving applications for benevolence.


War Distress Fund is established to support serving civil servants

The Great War of 1914-1918 saw many serving civil servants, particularly within the War Office, dealing with the personal aftermath, with many experiencing poverty, hardship and distress.
The 1919 War Distress Fund was established, and run separately from the War Office building until 1946 when it was merged into the Civil Service Benevolent Fund.
With a newly expanded remit to include current, former and retired civil servants and their financial dependants, the Charity grew.


Queen Elizabeth II becomes Patron

Following the death of our Patron, King George VI, Queen Elizabeth II became Patron. Her coronation the following year was attended by the Council of the Civil Service Benevolent Fund.


Blatchington House

Blatchington House opens

The Fund opened its first of what would become twelve convalescent homes in East Sussex.
At their peak in the early 1990s, we cared for about 330 people at any one time. Declining demand, a change in state provision, and rising costs meant the decision was made to close the homes in 1997.


Centenary Logo

100 years of support

100 years after we were founded, in 1986 our records show that we made direct grants and allowances totalling £704,000 to 6,085 individuals. Of these, 4,050 were to widows and other dependents, 919 to sick or disabled civil servants, 311 to retired civil servants and 372 to serving civil servants. Repayable loans were given to 97 serving civil servants.


Civil Service Benevolent Fund Logo


A constitutional reform changed the Fund’s rules more substantially than at any time since 1947. The focus shifted to supporting current and former civil servants and their dependents. A new help and advisory policy was introduced to allow greater flexibility. It took a broader view of individual’s circumstances. And added advisory services to grant-giving / financial help.


Financial and service support

Due to the financial crash of 2008, in 2009 we gave our highest ever level of grants – just under £4.8m. In the same year, in response to guidance from the DoE permanent secretary Sir David Bell, we launched our carers passport service. It was our first non-financial support product.


A new charity

The Fund became a charitable company limited by guarantee. In 2011, we officially rebranded as the Charity for Civil Servants with the strapline For You By You. This helped to emphasise the unique support given, almost entirely funded by the people it exists to support.

In 2012, services grew headings of Health, Wellbeing and Money. We started working with expert organisations such as Anxiety UK and Relate.


White Goods

Old and new services

We continued to provide financial assistance, this year helping people with over 600 household items including:
• cookers 
• fridges
• washing machines 
• beds and essential furniture 

We also launched new services including a pilot providing civil servants with access to an Admiral Nurse to help with dementia, and 30-minute online chats with a trained Relate counsellor.



More new services

As well as a new test to help carers identify areas where they might need support and how we could help, we also launched our first chatbots around wellbeing and financial issues.

Together our chatbots clocked up 8,500 conversations in 2019. The bots developed to become more personalised for example JaneBot, our finance chatbot, offered a financial health check in 2021.


Brilliant fundraisers

In 2022 John took on the West Highland Way Race as part of the walking challenge. He walked 96,000 miles in 20 hours 3 minutes.

Over the years brilliant fundraisers have been inspired to walk, run, bake, climb, skydive, cycle and so much more, to raise money. We thank all the generous payroll givers, donors and people who remembered us in their Wills too.


A fresh look

To help connect with current, former and retired civil servants across the UK, we launched a brand new look. Our new strapline – For whatever happens – sets out our purpose to be the first port of call.

So, here we are. Still helping with the same stuff. Still helping the same brilliant people. We’ve all been through a lot but we’re going through it together.

Dom’s story
I hope that my story about the support I received from the Charity of Civil Servants inspires others . I have no doubt that they will be able to guide you as they guided me. I am eternally grateful.
Dom's story

Related pages

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Our impact

Each year, we support thousands of current, former and retired civil servants.


Read stories of those we’ve helped and how.

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