Report of the Chairman of the Standing Committee on Welfare Programmes
Brigadier John King MBE - 2019
The most significant increase in SCOWP funding during its existence occurred in 2019. Since April of that year, the start of the Department for International Development's (DFID) five-year welfare programme, SCOWP has delivered its highest-ever level of welfare grants to needy pre-independence veterans and widows throughout the Commonwealth. For many beneficiaries the grants, equivalent to the cost of two meals a day in their country, have meant a very significant increase in their welfare, a huge leap beyond RCEL’s previous aim of providing
one meal a day.
During 2019 the number of veterans and widows assisted by SCOWP funds reduced to 7,238 down from 7,664 in 2018, a reduction of 5.5%. Our global welfare distribution to 57 Member Organisations exceeded £5M from RCEL’s own funds and those of other Founder RCEL Members and UK Service Charities. This sum included £925,617 of Agency payments assisting 897 individual welfare cases on behalf of some 40 UK-based charities. The Royal Canadian Legion is gratefully acknowledged for its generosity in 2019, contributing over £151,100 of welfare support to Member Organisations in the Caribbean; without this generous support our welfare grants elsewhere would be greatly diminished. A consequence of the DFID programme was that welfare grants to veterans and widows in eight Caribbean nations, previously funded by The Royal Canadian Legion, are now made at a higher level and paid direct by SCOWP to member organisations in Antigua, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St Lucia and St Vincent. The Royal Canadian Legion has matched this greater funding and increased their grants to beneficiaries in The Bahamas and Trinidad & Tobago. Other Founder Members also contributed significantly with The Returned & Services League of Australia and The Royal New Zealand Returned and Services Association assisting a number of beneficiaries throughout their countries.
Since last year’s report, the good work by RCEL Project Officers Johanna Lewin in the Caribbean and Derrick Cobbinah in West Africa has resulted in a greater number of both pre- and post independence veterans and widows coming to light to receive SCOWP and Agency grants. The number of pre-independence Antiguan veterans has increased from 7 to 14 and in Jamaica, we are now supporting 18 veterans and widows. Meanwhile in Ghana and Sierra Leone, following the welcome announcement of the DFID programme there was an upsurge in demand for welfare funds to support newly identified veterans and widows.
Use of SCOWP and Trustee Reserves was required to meet these unbudgeted in-year payments.
Our disbursement of grants from Blind Veterans UK (BV UK) continues. Some 210 veterans were supported, down from 219 in 2018, but this £120 annual grant is highly valued by beneficiaries. The continued BV UK support is gratefully acknowledged.
During 2019 several natural disasters hit Commonwealth nations, though mercifully there were no reported fatalities in our beneficiaries. In February, Cyclone GELENA hit Rodrigues Island, off Mauritius. SCOWP provided five £300 grants to veterans to recover following damage to crops in their market gardens. In mid-March, Cyclone IDAI struck Malawi and Zimbabwe which brought violent winds and caused severe flooding killing at least 1,000 people along its path. RCEL responded by sending £5,000 each to our member organisations; The Kings African Veterans Trust in Malawi and ZANE in Zimbabwe, to meet veterans’ immediate needs. In September, Hurricane DORIAN hit the Bahamas, the most intense hurricane on record to strike the islands and the country’s worst natural disaster. The Royal Canadian Legion reported that despite the hurricane passing over Grand Bahama, all three beneficiaries were unscathed.
Welfare visits made by RCEL staff to Member Organisations and veterans and widows are key to the success of RCEL work. Staff are able to witness first-hand the good effect of grant monies on our veterans and widows and are increasingly important to ensure Member Organisation good governance, meeting the DFID requirement that all DFID-funded countries with over 400 beneficiaries should be visited in the first year of the programme.
During February, the Secretary General visited Cameroon, South Africa and Lesotho. In Cameroon, 78 eligible veterans remain. Despite civil war and with the outstanding support of Sophie Scott he was able to personally present 7 beneficiaries with welfare payments. In Lesotho, the Secretary General met with the Africa Pioneer Corps (Lesotho). Thanks to government support 29 of the 33 veterans were gathered to meet RCEL and learn of the DFID welfare package.
In early March, Controller Finance visited Malawi and Uganda. Apart from meetings with our Member Organisation in Malawi, The King’s African Veterans Trust, he met with veterans resident in the Memorial Homes and gave them the good news that individual annual payments including the DFID element, would total £600 in comparison with £185 received in 2018.
During early May, Controller Compliance visited Nagaland and Burma. The number of beneficiaries in Nagaland has reduced to 15 veterans and 11 widows. In Burma, the number of beneficiaries in Pyin Oo Lwin has reduced to 2 veterans and 5 widows. With the assistance of the Kachin Veterans Committee in Myitkyina a total of 39 veterans and widows were visited and cash grants paid out.
In June, Controller Welfare & Grants visited Zimbabwe and Kenya. In Zimbabwe, the excellent work of ZANE was seen through visits to three ZANE-partner care homes to meet veterans and widows. Post-visit a further 33 veterans and widows were verified as qualifying for SCOWP grants. Last year
£198,000 was provided from RCEL funds to assist pre-1970 servicemen and their widows through the efficient and dedicated offices of ZANE. In addition, as part of our Agency work, £259,000 of welfare grants was delivered to beneficiaries through ZANE on behalf of the Officers’ Association, ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund, Royal Navy Benevolent Trust, Burma Star Association, Women’s Royal Naval Service Benevolent Trust and many other Regimental Associations. In Kenya, Controller Welfare & Grants initiated the process to more than double veterans and widows annual welfare payments from approx. £330 to £750 thanks to DFID funding of SCOWP.
At the end of July, the Programme Manager visited Ghana to meet West African Division, Gold Coast Regiment and Royal West African Frontier Force veterans in Accra, Kumasi and Amasaman. During visits to Veterans Administration Ghana the implementation of the DFID programme was discussed along with the verification of new pre-independence veteran and widow SCOWP applicants.
The DFID welfare programme has funded a huge boost in the amount of SCOWP grants now paid to over 7,000 needy pre-independence veterans and widows throughout the Commonwealth. Now, as never before, SCOWP grants provide a secure source of income to beneficiaries affording daily food-security or other vitally needed day-to-day necessities to those who served the Crown and now look to us for their support.