Here are some questions the RAF Widows' Association gets asked frequently.
What support is available for the terminally ill and their families?
The short answer is – whatever they need. Cases are managed either at unit level or through the Personnel Holding Flight, dependant on circumstances and whichever is more effective for the individual and their family.
Most cases will see multi-agency involvement, again based on need, but typically involving chain of command, P staff, medical, chaplaincy, SSAFA, plus whatever external agencies are most appropriate to need, such as MacMillan nurses.
Cases may often involve the RAF Benevolent Fund to meet financial need, with groundwork carried out by SSAFA and personnel staff in concert. Note that terminally ill personnel will often be retained in service until death rather than discharged on medical grounds so as to maintain the support structure and, most importantly, entitlement to in-service benefits.
Can widow pensions be increased to current pay scales 20 years ago pension value not as good as widows get today?
Pension awards are based on the terms and conditions of service that were in place when the scheme member served. It is a long standing principle that, where changes are made to the benefits of public service pension schemes, they are implemented from the current date for future service only and are not made retrospective.
Can there be some form of contact and support for those widowed just after leaving the RAF?
This is difficult, as this presumes that we will know about the bereavement. Where an individual is ill on discharge there will be a handover of support to social services through SSAFA protocols, and Service colleges may keep in touch, but where an individual dies unexpectedly, we have no way of knowing unless the family contact the Service to ask for assistance.
What can be done then depends on the distance, both in time and space –where the family are still in the vicinity of the station, it could be expected that former colleges will rally round, attend funeral etc.
Where there is need RAFA and SSAFA (the national organisation rather than the RAF contract staff) will willingly engage, with RAF Benevolent Fund in support where financial assistance is required. In short the answer is yes, there can be, but it requires the family to initiate the engagement.
I would like my pension sorted once and for all. Why when people are paid to do the job have I had so many problems getting money I am entitled to- specifically pension?
Unfortunately, it is not possible to answer this question without knowing the specifics of the case. If the RAFWA or the individual wish to forward case specifics, we will investigate on their behalf.
The children's pension in both AFPS 75 and AFPS 05 is based on the member's pension, not on what the specific anticipated costs to the family may be. It is intended to be a uniform benefit to all and does not take into account the particular circumstances of the children.
When a pension is paid to a widow/widower, up to 50% will be divided between eligible children to a maximum of 25% each of the total pension. When no pension is paid to a widow/widower, up to 100% of the pension is divided equally amongst eligible children to a maximum of 33% per child.
What is being done to liaise with specialist organisations in bereavement for the RAF to provide greater support ego Winston's Wish?
As our front-line specialist welfare support agency, SSAFA staff are constantly updated on the availability of support from external specialist agencies and wil lwork with families, either direct or through visiting officers, to call upon them when there is need.
The visiting officer (VO) handbook alerts the VO to the existence of these agencies and it is one of the subjects touched on in the new training DVD produced with the assistance of RAFWA.
What difference is the ‘Command Paper’ going to make to the bereaved and the support they receive?
The Command Paper sets out the intent that we will continue to improve the ways in which we support the bereaved by working with our colleagues across Government and within ex-Service organisations to meet any shortfalls in this provision.
National recognition of our Armed Forces report by Quentin Davies MP, it was disappointing that the Military Widows Organisations were not consulted. How can the Military, local councils and the general public be educated to recognise that widows, widowers, dependents of the bereaved families are part of the Veterans Community and include them in invitations extended to veterans?
This is a challenge in which we all must play our part; certainly, where the serving RAF is engaged separately in our own right, we encourage study teams to consult widely. This is an area where RAFWA engagement with COBSEO is of particular value, as COBSEO is the recognised national lead voice and are often first port of call for studies such as the NRS. In this particular case, we believe that the speed of the NRS consultation meant that they omitted some of the potential sources of consultation.
Why did I only receive half of my late husband’s pension when after 27 years service surely I should receive it all?
The scheme rules only permit that 50% (AFPS 75) or 62.5% (AFPS 05) of the members pension is paid to surviving spouses. If there are any eligible children then the remaining 50% is used to provide children’s pensions.
What happened to the information gathered from all members as to which RAF stations they would like to receive invitations to attend Air Days/ receptions etc.?
The RAF Community Support team acted on RAFWA's behalf last year informing the relevant stations of the desire for widows to maintain a connection with the RAF via air days etc and asking them to make contact with the respective widows/ widowers directly to forge a link and so take things forward at a local level.
At RAFWA's request, we also wrote to stations last year reminding them that widows will often want to bring a friend with them to events such as air days to help with children (there had been cases where invitations where limited to the widow and her children, and the individual felt awkward about asking for extras).
That said, we recognise the need for this list to be refreshed periodically as widows will move and change their views as to the level of engagement they want to maintain. We are now working towards repeating this process as an annual, ongoing requirement.
Why are widows finances treated differently depending on how their husband died? If they die in-service regardless of illness, sudden death, surely they deserve to be treated the same regardless.
The recently – published Service Personnel Command Paper sets out how we can better support and recognise those who have been wounded in the service of their country and outlines the rationale and requirement for proper return for sacrifice; it is only right and proper that additional compensation is provided where death was due (attributable) to Service.
What can be done to ensure that serving personnel are adequately supported on the death of a spouse? Current support appears to be inconsistent across the RAF. RAFWA are not advised and long term illness seems particularly badly handled.
Support is based on need and the individual’s own wishes – thus there is no set model that will apply in every case, and one person’s inconsistency is another’s tailored and responsive service.
In addition to the breadth of station agencies available to assist (as in Q1 above), staff will always give sensitive consideration to the need for stability, protection from ‘churn’ etc, particularly where the Service person is coping with the terminal illness of a spouse.
Whilst an individual will likely be further advised of existence of RAFWA by welfare staffs (dependent on circumstances), it is entirely a personal decision whether they wish to make contact, and we have no right to advise RAFWA of the death of someone's spouse.
We are not aware of any "particularly badly handled" cases – one would hope that any that came to light would be highlighted at the time.