The RAF Benevolent Fund has today launched the Join The Search. Change A Life. campaign, encouraging the public to get thousands of RAF veterans and their families 'back on the radar' and, if they need it, accessing support that is rightfully theirs.
The launch, timed to coincide with the Fund's centenary, took place at RAF Odiham in Hampshire and saw 1,000+ RAF Family members come together to form a 'human radar' lightshow to highlight the charity's search for those who served and may now need support.
"No veteran should be left fighting alone"
Research carried out by the Fund estimates that the RAF Family is made up of 1.4 million people who are either serving or who have served in the RAF (whether as a regular or reservist) and their spouses, partners or dependent children. Three quarters of them are aged over 65.
Air Vice-Marshal David Murray, Chief Executive of the RAF Benevolent Fund, said: "We know they're out there. Men and women who once served, or did their National Service in the RAF, and now need our help. No veteran should be left fighting alone, whether that be in the face of financial, emotional or health problems. We have life-changing support available for all members of the RAF Family.
"Too many ex-Service people do not seek the support that is rightfully theirs due to misplaced pride, shame or through not knowing support is there.
"So, in our centenary year we are launching a major campaign to get people to think about who they know who may be eligible for and in need of our support. They may be your friends, neighbours or relatives. They did their duty – now we, as a society, must do ours before it's too late."
The RAF Benevolent Fund is urging the public to consider whether they have friends or family connected to the RAF and, if they’re in need of financial or emotional support, to refer them to the Fund and get them back on the radar.
A recent YouGov poll of 2,000 people shows that 35% of the public believe they know someone who has served, or is serving, in the RAF – while 21% of people are related to someone who served. With more than 1.4 million members in the RAF Family, the Fund estimates the likelihood of knowing someone could be much higher, partly due to the breadth of National Service.
The RAF Benevolent Fund offers a wide range of support, from financial grants for one-off and day-to-day costs, respite breaks and emotional support. Last year it spent £21M on welfare support for the RAF Family, including:
- £1M on mobility aids
- £439K on care home top-up fees
- £457K on disability equipment
- £2.6M providing respite and care services and wellbeing breaks
- £500K supporting veterans living outside the United Kingdom
The Join The Search. Change A Life. campaign will include a television and radio advert voiced by Sir David Jason, a long-standing supporter of the RAF.
Lending the campaign his full support, Sir David Jason said: "I am part of the generation of men and women who were called up to serve our country. I know many often don't think of themselves as RAF veterans but the RAF Benevolent Fund is here to assure them the nation thanks them for their service and is prepared to support them in their time of need.
"This campaign is essential to ensure all those who need help get it before it's too late – I am delighted to play my, small, part in raising awareness for that pledge so if you know someone who served, start that conversation today. Speak to your friends and relatives and ask questions about National Service or what they did during the war, as that one conversation could make a big difference to someone's life."
The charity's advertising campaign also features 92-year-old Ron Finch, a former RAF driver and beneficiary of the Fund from Nottingham. Ron was conscripted into the RAF aged 18 in 1945, serving in India and Sri Lanka.
Support from the RAF Benevolent Fund has funded a stairlift and wet room, enabling Ron to continue living at home with his wife Pauline and to keep in touch with other veterans through its weekly Telephone Friendship Group service.
Ron said: "I saw it as my duty to serve in the RAF when I was called up and have happy memories from my time overseas. All these years later the support from the RAF Benevolent Fund has made everything a lot easier for me as I get older. The friendship groups in particular mean a lot to me, as we all get together and have a real natter, it's brilliant.
"To others who have been part of the RAF, I'd say it's definitely worth getting in touch with the Fund. The support I've had has been life-changing and it reminds you that you never leave the RAF Family. I know they're always there if myself or my wife need them."
To refer someone to the RAF Benevolent Fund, please get in touch or call 0300 102 1919.