We understand that this is a difficult time for many and we want to reassure members of the RAF Family that we are working hard to continue to meet their needs during the COVID-19 outbreak.
As we have done throughout our 100 years, the RAF Benevolent Fund has placed the welfare of our beneficiaries and staff at the centre of our response to the coronavirus crisis which has engulfed the world.
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.
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 and serving personnel are able to access the very best level of support we can provide in these challenging times. 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.
- 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.
- We continue to be open to ideas from station staffs as to how we can better support their people at this unprecedented time.
- 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.
- 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 'keeping in touch' (KIT) 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
- In immediate response to the outbreak of the virus, we took the difficult but necessary step of closing our care and respite centre Princess Marina House to guests as well as the popular daily lunch club.
- 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.
- 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 'KIT' 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 are producing some mental wellbeing materials that we can shared on our website and sent out to vulnerable members of the RAF Family to help them cope with the current situation.