For the past 100 years, the Fund has stood side by side with the RAF Family during its toughest times and the coronavirus pandemic is no exception. The welfare of our beneficiaries and staff have been and will continue to be at the forefront of all we do.
We have adjusted our working practices to ensure it is 'open for business' for those members of the RAF Family who need our support. Indeed, since lockdown was announced, the Fund has awarded more than £1.8M in grants to RAF veterans, serving personnel and their families.
We have made the difficult decision to temporarily close our Princess Marina House care and respite centre on the south coast to protect our guests and staff. In addition, a number of staff from other parts of the organisation have been furloughed as their jobs could not be carried out under lockdown conditions. In total, we have placed 47% of our staff on the government furlough scheme.
For our beneficiaries, the Fund already has robust and effective strategies in place to support people who might be affected by social isolation. We want to ensure the most vulnerable RAF veterans, serving personnel and dependants are able to access the very best level of support we can provide in these challenging times.
Around three quarters of the RAF Family are aged over 65, many live at a distance from friends and family and are experiencing complex health and welfare challenges, often compounded by their age. Shielding and self-isolation is not making the situation any easier and is certainly increasing social isolation and loneliness.
To that end, the Fund has expanded a number of our welfare services and is looking to bring in additional elements. Combined with our core support which is available to help with any immediate financial issues, support mental wellbeing and help alleviate social isolation.
The Fund has launched an online grant application process for RAF veterans and their partners. Beneficiaries can apply for grants up to £750 using an online form, allowing our caseworking partners to focus on the more complex cases.
Larger financial grants are available for members of the RAF Family including working-age RAF veterans who may be out of work due to the crisis. We continue to work with caseworking organisations to ensure that the application process is as effective as possible, despite many of their volunteers being affected by social distancing.
The Fund has made £2,500 available for each RAF station to provide an activity and wellbeing pack for RAF children who will be missing our Airplay youth support sessions which have been temporarily paused.
Veterans can seek advice through the Fund's Benefits Advice and Advocacy service. The Advocacy service is also able to assist people with understanding and challenging social care and CHC (continuing healthcare) decisions.
We have also launched a legal advice helpline for members of the RAF Family unsure about their rights.
Our weekly Telephone Friendship Groups service has expanded to allow for more veterans to join; most of these calls are moderated by Fund staff.
Expanding weekly Check and Chat calls for more veterans, taking referrals from the public who may know an isolated veteran. These calls will help us to identify further needs.
Our Community Engagement Workers are continuing their great work with vulnerable beneficiaries, but now over the phone.
Our Social Engagement Workers have flexed their role and are working hard with their local station to better support the socially isolated on and off station.
Princess Marina House
We have been doing bag drops of vital provisions in the local area for vulnerable members of the RAF Family.
We're doing regular 'check-in' calls for our Respite at Home users, to ensure they're OK and to identify any further needs.
Guests who were due to attend PMH in the coming months will also receive a 'check-in' call.
Veterans and serving personnel in need of low-level emotional support can access the Listening and Counselling Service, which has been expanded to provide 24-hour support.
Vulnerable veterans who have identified themselves to us will receive a one-off 'check-in' call to check on them and identify any needs they may have. Any veterans who would benefit could then be transferred to the weekly 'Check and Chat' calls or Telephone Friendship Groups.
There are still some spare spaces on our existing Headspace provision for the serving RAF. We have already agreed to double this in the coming months and are hoping to bring this forward – watch this space! This will allow us to support more serving personnel and also open use of the app to their partners and anyone using our Listening and Counselling service. This will remain free to users.
We have an online mental wellbeing zone on our website where RAF veterans and personnel can find advice, support and find out where to go for more help.