Report of the Chairman of the Standing Committee on Welfare Programmes
Brigadier John King MBE - 2020
During 2020, Covid 19 had less impact than anticipated on the work of SCOWP to deliver welfare grants to needy pre-independence veterans and their widows throughout the Commonwealth. Whilst travel by office staff was curtailed after March 2020, our Member Organisations and in-country representatives were still able, with Covidsafe restrictions, to visit beneficiaries and make welfare grant payments. Payments are increasingly made by bank transfer or by cheque.
In April, SCOWP began the second year of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) funded Commonwealth Veterans
Programme, a five-year welfare programme to deliver the highest ever level of welfare grants to our beneficiaries. For many veterans and widows in the 29 countries within the programme the grants, equivalent to the cost of two meals a day in their country, have meant a significant increase in their welfare, beyond RCEL’s previous aim of providing one meal a day.
During 2020 the number of veterans and widows assisted by SCOWP funds reduced to 5,934 from 7,238 in 2019 - a reduction of 18%. Our global welfare distribution to 54 Member Organisations exceeded £3.9M from RCEL’s own funds and those of other Founder Members and UK Service Charities. This sum included 703 individual grant payments totalling over £718,759 on behalf of some 30 UK-based charities as Agency work. Our disbursement of grants from Blind Veterans UK (BV UK) continues. Some 164 veterans were supported, down from 210 in 2019, but this £120 annual grant is highly valued by beneficiaries. The continued BV UK support is gratefully acknowledged.
The Royal Canadian Legion is also gratefully acknowledged for its generosity in 2020, contributing over £81,000 of welfare support to Member Organisations in the Caribbean, directly funding 36 beneficiaries in The Bahamas, and Trinidad and Tobago and part funding 45 veterans and widows in Antigua and Jamaica. Our other Founder Members, The Returned and Services League of Australia, The Royal New Zealand Returned and Services Association and The South African Legion also contributed significantly to beneficiary welfare.
During August 2020, in response to a final appeal to match a donation from the Somaliland Scouts Association I was pleased to make a £4,000 grant from SCOWP Reserves to assist the few remaining Somali Scouts. The grant, a final donation, was made direct to the Edna Adnan Hospital in Hargeisa, Somalia.
Despite Covid restrictions, the vital work of Member Organisations continued delivering welfare and day-to-day assistance to SCOWP
beneficiaries. One example is the work of the Mauritius Ex-Services Trust Fund and their member Vadivel Survasoo of Port Louis. Private
Survasoo joined the Royal Pioneer Corps in June 1951 aged 21 and served in Egypt as a firefighter. After leaving the Army in July 1954, Vadivel worked as a storeman at the Central Water Authority of Mauritius. Now suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, he can recall little and
is unable to walk. The SCOWP welfare grant helps him purchase a healthy daily diet.
In the absence of staff visits due to Covid travel restrictions, the good work by RCEL Project Officers Johanna Lewin in the Caribbean and
Derrick Cobbinah in West Africa was underlined as they provided essential assistance to eight Caribbean and four West Africa Member
Before the onset of the Covid pandemic RCEL staff were able to make three welfare visits to Member Organisations and to veterans and
widows. Such visits are key to the success of RCEL work where staff are able to provide guidance and support, witness first-hand the good
effect of grants to our veterans and widows and are increasingly important to ensure Member Organisation good governance.
During January and February Controller Compliance, Captain Lance Gill, visited Burma followed by New Delhi and Chennai, India. In Burma he travelled to Myitkyina to meet with Dr Kareng Bawm Awn of the Kachin Veterans Committee and make welfare grant payments in person to veterans and widows. In Delhi, Lance met with the Indian Ex-Services League to discuss the harsh impact of the Government of India’s ban on foreign charitable aid being sent to Non-Government Organisations. This ban has prevented RCEL from making payments to our five Member Organisations in India since May 2019 and sadly there appears no easy immediate resolution. Highlights of Lance’s visit to Burma, New Delhi and Chennai can be read elsewhere in this report. This was the last welfare tour undertaken by Captain Gill prior to his retirement from RCEL and I thank him for his ten years of sterling service as Controller Welfare and latterly as Controller Compliance. In early March the then Programme Manager, David Thompson, visited Sierra Leone. Accompanied by RCEL West Africa Project Officer, Derrick Cobbinah, David met with the Sierra Leone Ex-Servicemen’s Association and veterans and widows in Freetown. Highlights of David’s visit can be read elsewhere in this report.
In May 2020, following the late Captain Sir Tom Moore’s fund raising for NHS charities, Ghana based, and Burma campaign veteran, Joseph Hammond was inspired to undertake his own fund raising walk. 95-year old Private Hammond embarked on a 2 mile daily walk for a week through busy Accra streets to raise funds to support frontline workers and needy veterans across Africa. Private Hammond, like Captain Sir
Tom also fought in Burma during World War II. On the final day of his walk, 25 May, Africa Day, he was joined by His Excellency Iain Walker, British High Commissioner to Ghana. He was awarded a Commonwealth Points of Light award by our Patron HM The Queen. In July, having raised over £40,000, Joseph Hammond donated £10,000 to RCEL and this was used to provide food boxes to SCOWP beneficiaries in Ghana, delivered by Derrick Cobbinah. Derrick’s account of the tour can be read elsewhere in this report.
SCOWP welfare grants, boosted for a second year by FCDO funds, continue to deliver life changing funds to over 6,000 needy preindependence veterans and widows throughout the Commonwealth. As Covid continues to threaten the lives of the most needy veterans and widows, SCOWP welfare grants provide a secure source of income to beneficiaries affording daily food security to those who served the Crown and now look to us for their support.