Report of the Chairman of the Standing Committee on Welfare Programmes
Brigadier John King MBE - 2012
Mr Eric Rozario, who lives in Chennai India, served with the Madras Guards from July 1940 to August 1947. He was awarded two medals; the India Service Medal and 1939-1945 War Medal which he proudly displays. He is now 88 years old and both his wife and son have died and he relies upon his neighbours and RCEL to care for him. He suffers with heart problems and is virtually immobile and spends all his time at home unable to walk more than a few steps.
Mr Rozario is typical of many in the Indian Subcontinent and he would find survival extremely difficult without the financial assistance that the RCEL provides.
He is just one of the 12,726 ex-servicemen, women and widows that we assisted in 2012. Our global distribution exceeded £1.98M, from RCEL’s own funds and those of other Founder RCEL Members and UK Service Charities. HQ RCEL distributed over £1.7M in welfare support to 32 member organisations. This included over £683,000 distributed on behalf of other military charities as Agency work. The Royal Canadian Legion supported a further 14 Caribbean member organisations with £170,728 in similar welfare, medical and admin support; without this generous support our welfare grants elsewhere would have to be drastically reduced.
Fortunately, we did not receive any bids for emergency grants due to earthquake and flood as we did in 2011. However, towards the end of the year we were able to provide some additional support to Burmese veterans on the Burma/Thai border.
The impact of current conflict in the world has not bypassed RCEL and we see our services stretching beyond our normal geographic boundaries with assistance being provided to a refugee of the Syrian conflict. The support provided by Embassy Defence Staff should be acknowledged; without their assistance the casework and disbursement of funds would be impossible.
A United Nations report in October 2012 warned of a ‘looming worldwide food crisis in 2013’. Global grain reserves have hit critically low levels, extreme weather means ‘climate’ is no longer reliable and, according to the report, rising food prices threaten disaster and unrest in many countries around the world. RCEL visits during 2012 to member organisations (which have been summarised elsewhere in this report) have continued to highlight the view previously reported that the level of support provided to beneficiaries is falling behind inflation because of the rising cost of food staples.
Clearly, this is a continuing trend and an issue that will apply even further pressure to the limited funding we have available.
I would like to acknowledge the tremendous support that has been provided by Blind Veterans UK (formerly St Dunstan’s) over many years. In 2012 they supported 329 veterans in a number of our countries. Specifically, in Somaliland, 12 ex Scouts received surgery to restore their sight which has improved their lives dramatically. BV UK also provided additional funding last year which was matched by RCEL; to date this funding has resulted in 6 veterans in Burma having received cataract operations, with more to follow.
The “Agency” work of RCEL continues to grow and we have no doubt that it will increase over the years with the numbers of Commonwealth servicemen and women currently serving in the British Armed Forces today. This area of work will continue long after our pre-independence veterans have departed. It is via our Member Organisations and other agencies that we hear of current cases and in 2012 the Controller Welfare coordinated 1,774 applications and grant payments on behalf of the over 40 Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force benevolent associations, to those soldiers, sailors and airmen who have served the country and widows who are now living abroad and have fallen upon hard times.
During the year the Headquarters’ team visited 8 member organisations around the world. These visits are extremely important in recognising the efforts that our volunteers provide in the support of the veterans and widows; they provide practical support and advice and allow us to be much better informed of the specific needs of the countries concerned when the SCOWP Welfare Committee meets each year.
The Royal Canadian Legion is gratefully acknowledged for their generosity in contributing towards welfare grants in the Caribbean. Other founder members also contributed, with the Returned Services Leagues in Australia and New Zealand helping generously in their parts of the globe. Additionally, without the donations in kind from the Royal British Legion, the sums available for benevolence would be much reduced.
The numbers of eligible beneficiaries of RCEL support may be reducing each year. However, the demand for resources has not diminished; member organisations report new cases each year and the economic down turn, rising essential commodity prices and increasing old age put huge pressure on our limited resources. However, with the continued assistance of our supporters and donors we feel confident that we can continue to provide welfare to all those veterans and widows who are in need throughout the Commonwealth.