Report of the Chairman of the Standing Committee on Welfare Programmes
Brigadier John King MBE - 2017

One of the many great strengths of RCEL is that we are able to react rapidly to various situations around the world and during 2017 we were called upon to support veterans and widows who suffered as a result of hailstones and flooding in Uganda and severe flooding in Bangladesh and Sierra Leone.  A total of 49 veterans and widows were affected in Bangladesh and I was able to authorise an immediate grant of £200 each in an effort to ease their suffering.  Sixteen veterans and widows in Uganda were subject to severe hailstone storms with consequential damage to property and livestock; a grant of £2,000 was sent to UESA in Kampala for immediate distribution.  In Sierra Leone, 4 of our veterans were directly affected by severe flooding and, sadly, only 3 survived.  The RCEL grant enabled the survivors to purchase food and clothing. So, readers will note that in addition to the 8,534 individual veterans and widows who were assisted in 2017 through our Member Organisations, our small team of 4 at HQ RCEL can react very quickly to disaster situations around the world.

It is always sad to report that the number of individuals assisted in 2017 has reduced to 8,534 from 9,835 in the previous year, a reduction of over 13%.  Our global distribution exceeded £2.8M from RCEL’s own funds and those of other Founder RCEL Members and UK Service Charities.  HQ RCEL distributed over £2.6M in welfare support to 46 Member Organisations.  This included over £789,000 distributed on behalf of other military charities as Agency work.  The Royal Canadian Legion is gratefully acknowledged for their generosity in 2017, contributing over £157,000 of welfare support to Member Organisations in the Caribbean; without this generous support our welfare grants elsewhere would have to be drastically cut.  Other Founder Members also contributed significantly with The Returned & Services League of Australia and The New Zealand Returned and Services Association assisting a number of beneficiaries throughout their countries.

Elsewhere in this report you will read about the Secretary General’s welfare tour to Nagaland.  This is the first time RCEL has visited that part of India.  There are 2 reasons why staff have not previously visited; the first is the security situation and the second that the Indian Ex-Services League (IESL) has responsibility for Nagaland and therefore previous visits to India have been to New Delhi, where the IESL HQ is located, and the surrounding areas. Nagaland is difficult to get to and Kohima remains isolated.  This particular visit demonstrates the importance attached to our welfare tours in confirming good governance and, not least, meeting with our elderly beneficiaries; in this particular case 22 veterans and 8 widows were newly identified and it was the first time they had received grants from RCEL.  Sepoy Tochalie Rangma (pictured to the left) is one of those who received a grant.  He is now aged 90 and served initially as a boy soldier in 1943.

I would like to thank the Kohima Education Trust (KET) and the Kohima Education Society (KES) for their valued assistance.

The ‘Agency’ work of RCEL continues to be a significant element and in 2017 Controller Welfare coordinated 1,008 grant payments totalling over £789,000 on behalf of some 40 UK based charities.  The case of Flight Sergeant Uddin in Bangladesh highlights the work we do; the Secretary General met with him during his visit to Dhaka.  Clearly in need, a request was sent to the RAFBF and Blind Veterans UK who immediately responded with a general needs grant of £500 each.  Blind Veterans UK also provided their overseas grant to 340 of our veterans around the world.  Their continued support is gratefully acknowledged.

I have been able to increase the level of RCEL direct welfare assistance over the past few years due to the Libor grant received in 2015.  However, as a consequence of the rapid increase in the cost of living around the world, the support does not cover the cost of a meal a day in all our countries.  The average annual grant in 2017 was £128, although less in some countries and a little more in others.  In 2008 the average grant was around £47, so we have seen a 172% increase over a 9 year period.  However, a recent survey completed by HQ RCEL identified the cost of a meal a day in each of our countries; for example, in India £275 will be required, £350 in Cameroon and £400 in Zambia, some countries are much higher.  Although we have seen a considerable increase in the level of our support over the years, this exercise has demonstrated quite clearly the shortfall we have in trying to achieve our aim of a meal a day and highlights the continuing need for the generous support provided by our benefactors.

RCEL has been working with ZANE in Zimbabwe for many years now; this is still a country in turmoil.  Zimbabwe has been receiving a significant amount of RCEL funding over the past few years and last year a total of over £225,000 was provided from RCEL funds to assist ex Rhodesian African Rifles servicemen and their widows through the efficient and dedicated offices of ZANE.  In addition, as part of our Agency work a total of over £270,000 was provided through ZANE on behalf of the Officers’ Association, Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund, Royal Navy Benevolent Trust, Burma Star Association, Women’s Royal Naval Service Benevolent Trust and many other Regimental Associations, too numerous to list.

Despite the fact the numbers of eligible beneficiaries of RCEL support are declining, the demand for resources has not diminished.  Member Organisations report new cases each year; these are old and vulnerable people hit by the economic downturn and the rising cost of essential commodities.  We have increased our support in an effort to achieve a ‘meal a day’ but the demands are great and increasingly we rely upon your generous donations to help those who served The Crown during our time of need.
RCEL - Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League - Registered Charity No. 1174874 - Haig House, 199 Borough High Street, London SE1 1AA, United Kingdom - Telephone +44 (0)20 3207 2413

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