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On the road for the RAF family

Philip Wiles heads up the Housing and Care Services team at the RAF Benevolent Fund. Last week, Philip was out on the road in Scotland and the north of England to meet some of the people we support. Philip tells us more in this blog.

A quote sits on my desk permanently to remind me that those who contact us "need to sense we are there because we care, not just because it’s our job".

Philip WilesIt's a reminder that we are in the people business. I'm on the road for once to see for myself the difference that the RAF Benevolent Fund makes to individuals and families.

Ultimately people in need are why we exist, so getting out of the office environment to hear their stories is vitally important.

My destination is Scotland and the north east of England, where I'm visiting some of the people we support by providing housing. 

Each one of them has been medically discharged from the RAF and is unable to work. I want to make sure they know that we care about their ongoing life issues as well as managing their housing.

Meeting such a cross-section of veterans, young and old, single, married and families, gives me further inspiration for a job that has motivated me for eleven years. 

Something that I'm reminded of time and time again is the teamwork that characterises the RAF Benevolent Fund’s welfare support. This is especially the case for people we support through housing.

On my journey through the Highlands I am driven around by Bob Kemp, our director for Scotland, Northern Ireland and the north of England. 

Because he visits RAF bases regularly, and on account of past service, he is able to get to know veterans in a way that I cannot. Bob has often been where they served, knows someone they knew. He is a vital part of the support structure which includes surveyors and occupational therapists.

Another important part of the team are the volunteer caseworkers from SSAFA, RAFA and The Royal British Legion, so when I arrived at Stockton-on-Tees, I made a beeline for the local office of SSAFA Forces Help.

I have worked with the SSAFA team here by phone for a decade, so it is great to finally meet them. Alan, the SSAFA divisional secretary, with many years of voluntary service under his belt, was waiting with freshly-brewed tea and a warm welcome.

Our welfare team has a close relationship with caseworkers on the ground like Alan. In a complex case there may be lots of follow up questions to ensure clarity in identifying the need before we can respond in a meaningful way. 

It is in these situations that teamwork is vital – the caseworker has vital first-hand knowledge and has seen the personal circumstances and the living conditions that relate of the person we are trying to support.

Alan has been on the phone to the office many times to discuss complex applications, and his wealth of knowledge and commitment to go the extra mile makes the world of difference. He is representative of so many caseworkers who give their time freely.

Half an hour passes all too briefly, but the visit is thoroughly worthwhile as a means of expressing appreciation and strengthening our relationship.  Now I'm back to the office, but enriched and reinvigorated for the ongoing task.

By Philip Wiles

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