SUE REID: Why ARE so lots of veterans gunning for the British Legion?

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Byng Residence is a handsome seaside resort around the promenade and a quick stroll to the sands of Southport.

It has offered no cost vacations to forces veterans and their people due to the fact a grand opening a decade back by Prince Andrew.

Hundreds have savored good times at the resort, which is funded by the Royal British Legion. But these may well be about.

For the future of Byng Residence and a few other lodges operate by the ‘poppy’ charity — in Bridlington, East Yorkshire Weston- super-Mare, Somerset and Portrush in Northern Eire — are in the harmony.

All confront staying closed up coming month as component of a ‘cost-cutting’ physical exercise. This week the hotels’ internet websites say they have stopped taking future bookings.

Of class, the work of the Legion is legendary and admired all through the military services and civilian globe. Not only does it perform a main role in the nation’s commemoration of our war lifeless, but in helping these veterans who have served our place in the Armed Products and services.

As the Legion told the Mail: ‘Our purpose is to support these who appear to us for assist to live fulfilled and impartial life, and we will ensure an individual is offered all they need to have to get to this outcome.’

Left to right: War veterans Alec Willis, Steve Scudder and Graham Cosham. Steve, who was in the Territorial Army for 34 years and is now an NHS learning adviser, says: 'More of the charities’ money should filter down to veterans'

Remaining to proper: War veterans Alec Willis, Steve Scudder and Graham Cosham. Steve, who was in the Territorial Army for 34 yrs and is now an NHS finding out adviser, states: ‘More of the charities’ funds really should filter down to veterans’

Steve Scudder, pictured centre in his younger years, has set up a drop-in centre for veterans. It is called the Blue Van — after a popular NAAFI van in Germany which provided hot food and drink to troops — and provides legal and financial advice with the support of military charities including Combat Stress

Steve Scudder, pictured centre in his youthful yrs, has established up a fall-in centre for veterans. It is called the Blue Van — just after a popular NAAFI van in Germany which furnished incredibly hot foods and drink to troops — and provides lawful and economic information with the assist of military services charities including Fight Anxiety

But when we visited Byng Residence, the Legion’s flag even now fluttered, but its home windows had been shuttered, and an uncollected Amazon parcel courting from December was propped by the entrance.

Currently, there is increasing anger about the risk to these lodges by the Legion, which was established up to support Globe War I veterans just about a century back.

A recent visitor to Byng Residence, Sheila Smith, wrote on Fb: ‘As a carer for my husband, the split absent at Byng Residence was fabulous for us equally.

‘We shared a dream of returning, but regrettably that is not to be.’

Veteran Alan Crussell also visited. ‘If the poppy split lodges close. I will discontinue my membership of the British Legion,’ he warned. ‘I stayed at Byng Residence for a fortnight in 2018. I was at a reduced ebb. It saved my lifestyle.’

Roland Sutton, sixty four, in the Artillery and Royal Logistics’ Corps for 46 yrs, contacted the Legion’s head business to item. ‘They said they experienced accomplished a feasibility study and remaining at Byng Residence only gave a “short-expression fix”. Most men and women go on vacation every yr, and is not that a quick-expression repair? It gives you a decide on-up and helps you on.’

Veterans in Portrush have been waving banners and protesting at their hotel’s demise. In Bridlington, there is equivalent dismay. ‘Our resort was renovated by the Legion very last yr at a price of tens of hundreds,’ states Mike Rubery, a former RBL official in Bridlington. ‘It was a overall waste of charity donations when closure was the intention.’

Mr Rubery spoke to two men from the Legion’s London headquarters — neither of whom, he promises, experienced military services backgrounds — when they arrived in November to split the information about the closure of the resort.

Graham Cosham

Graham Cosham

Graham Cosham, pictured not long ago and in the course of his occupation in the military services. He suffers from PTSD and makes use of the Blue Van centre. He served in Northern Eire, Berlin, Belize and labored in bomb disposal in Kuwait just after the 1st Gulf War

Left to right: Ex servicemen James Brooks, Andy Price and Wayne Ingram at the Veterans Hub in Weymouth, Dorset. In 2017, Andy could no longer work because of PTSD after seeing a colleague killed in Afghanistan

Remaining to proper: Ex servicemen James Brooks, Andy Value and Wayne Ingram at the Veterans Hub in Weymouth, Dorset. In 2017, Andy could no for a longer time work because of PTSD just after observing a colleague killed in Afghanistan

‘They said there experienced been research demonstrating that the lodges . . . are not price-helpful.’ Mr Rubery points out. ‘Yet the lodges support veterans who are lonely, have overcome pressure, are in tough times economically, even terminally ill . . . the record goes on.’ This rebel by veterans is fuelled by one problem: why must their important lodges, which price £6.5 million a yr to operate, be shut down when the poppy charity and some others like it sit on broad sums of unspent funds?

In 2018, the Legion recorded an cash flow of £163.two million and experienced reserves of £70 million, in accordance to its very last once-a-year report.

Every single yr, its nationwide poppy appeal reaps some £50 million. Latest anniversaries of equally globe wars brought an upsurge in donations as the commemorations pricked the nationwide conscience and the general public dug deep.

The RBL is the wealthiest of Britain’s 10 greatest military services charities. Between them, these 10 have merged belongings of £1.four billion, furthermore reserves of £277 million, prompting more and more angry accusations of ‘cash hoarding’.

In all, the one,500 armed forces charities have a overall worth of £3.one billion — £1 billion much more than the once-a-year price to the Navy of Defence of managing the Trident nuclear submarine programme.

Still even with these broad sums, six,000 military services veterans continue being homeless, ten,000 have experienced major brushes with the regulation or are in prison, and as lots of as fifty,000 experience mental well being issues brought about by encounters of conflict or their struggles to cope with ‘civvy street’ when their military services careers end.

The future of Byng House and three other hotels run by the ‘poppy’ charity are in the balance

The future of Byng Residence and a few other lodges operate by the ‘poppy’ charity are in the harmony

Veterans in Portrush have been waving banners and protesting at their hotel’s demise

Veterans in Portrush have been waving banners and protesting at their hotel’s demise

It was five yrs back — when operations in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, arrived to an conclusion — that Britain very last experienced frequent troops deployed on the ground overseas in a overcome mission.

Since then, the merged belongings of the major 10 military services charities have amplified by much more than a 3rd, in accordance to Iain Overton, executive director of Motion On Armed Violence, which seeks to halt conflicts globally. ‘Yet a great deal don’t use this funds,’ he states.

‘Now is the time to thrust the boat out, not for price-slicing. It is critical these charities shell out and come across out who demands the funds.’

He adds: ‘There are veterans with age-linked illness, submit-traumatic pressure ailment (PTSD), and the youthful ones household from wars on terror who need to have support proper now.

‘The general public are awkward about scrutinising these charities.

‘They believe it implies they are criticising veterans. I have been called a traitor for declaring that we could be sleepwalking into a main scandal about the military services charities hoarding funds.’ Previous defence secretary Michael Fallon has also expressed worry. ‘There are also lots of military services charities, if I can be brutal,’ he said not long ago.

‘They had been started with the best intentions but all involve administration and fund-raise in the exact same region. They need to have to pull alongside one another . . . placing assets into helping veterans who may well or else be still left on the streets.’

A 3rd voice — from a senior military services charity co-ordinator who requested to continue being anonymous because he feared retaliation for breaking ranks — told the Mail: ‘Some rich charities have develop into slick advertising and marketing outfits.

‘They are into merchandising and have internet websites offering all the things from ‘poppy’ doggy collars, umbrellas and cushions, to rose-gold petal cufflinks at £749.99 a pair. They market and offer products and solutions aggressively and this eats absent at income from donations.

‘All the time I hear from disillusioned ex-military services and their people begging for support with housing and well being issues. They bang on the door of the charities and don’t appear to be to get it.’

Specified the mounting anger amid veterans, the Mail resolved to look into why so lots of of our ex-military services have, somehow, slipped by the internet when their charities are so nicely resourced. 

Andy Value, 41, a former rifleman in the Devonshire and Dorset Regiment life in Weymouth, Dorset. In 2017, Andy could no for a longer time work because of PTSD just after observing a colleague killed in Afghanistan. He wanted support shelling out his council tax costs.

‘At 1st I contacted Fight Anxiety [a mental well being charity for veterans] to come across they experienced a ten-month ready record,’ he states.

Pictured: Royal British Legion Somerset House, Weston-super-Mare.  Today, there is growing anger over the threat to these hotels by the Legion, which was set up to help World War I veterans nearly a century ago

Pictured: Royal British Legion Somerset Residence, Weston-super-Mare.  Today, there is increasing anger about the risk to these lodges by the Legion, which was established up to support Globe War I veterans just about a century back

He then turned to the Royal British Legion, and finished up in a prolonged combat with them. He states he was requested to demonstrate his council tax case was legitimate by the charity and, at his lowest position, even prepared his possess suicide because the system was taking so extensive.

‘There was so considerably kind-filling it was unbelievable,’ he states. ‘They told me to wait six months right up until I was summoned to courtroom for non-payment of council tax prior to they would consider support. It was incredibly stress filled. It was only when it got to courtroom that they assisted me by generating a contribution so the matter got settled. I went by a great deal.’

So desperate did Andy develop into, and so worried about the absence of immediate support, that he established up his possess assist company for veterans who are struggling, contacting it The Veterans Hub. ‘We really should not exist,’ he states with feeling. ‘We really should not be wanted.’

Andy’s hub gives a comfortable social setting exactly where veterans can have a incredibly hot drink, cake and a chat. It now has one hundred fifty frequent end users, aged in between 20 and ninety six.

Six volunteer employees depend on donations and grants to protect overheads of up to £15,000 a yr. The hub also gives economic information on advantages and housing to ex-servicemen. A single male who sought support is Lee Fudge, 52, an ammunition technician with the Royal Logistics Corps in Northern Eire, Bosnia and Kosovo exactly where he was injured in a blast prior to staying medically discharged in 2004.

One man who sought help is Lee Fudge, 52, an ammunition technician with the Royal Logistics Corps in Northern Ireland

A single male who sought support is Lee Fudge, 52, an ammunition technician with the Royal Logistics Corps in Northern Eire

Lee labored as a profits rep right up until his military services accidents led to such severe arthritis that he experienced to leave the career in 2017. He told me he ‘navigated’ the benefits’ process to major up his army pension.

‘I contacted SSAFA, the Armed Forces Charity,’ he states ‘and they experienced only one agent in their business for one day a week. So that was no good.’ More not long ago, he turned to the RBL, applying for an emergency grant to protect the price of shifting into a housing association flat at quick discover just after staying on the ready record for seven yrs.

Even though it was an software for ‘emergency help’, the RBL system was ‘painfully slow’, he states.

‘Once you in fact discuss to an individual at the Legion, your request for funds is passed up the line. An outreach worker arrived to see me and went about my company record and the kinds I wanted to fill in. I got a simply call lots of days later inquiring me for much more facts and to photocopy added paperwork and deliver it about.’

The issues was he was about to eliminate his new flat. ‘I experienced to accept it [the offer you of the flat] in 28 hours — and go in 10 days.

‘In the conclusion I productively pleaded with the Legion. We all know how prosperous it is. You can see they throw funds at Remembrance events.

‘But they don’t appear to be to offer you a system to support veterans. It is a minefield of bureaucracy. I may well be erroneous, but the funds men appear to be to have taken about the Legion which has lost its caring facet.’

His tale is similar to some others we read. In the seaside resort of Eastbourne, East Sussex, Steve Scudder, 57, has established up a fall-in centre for veterans. It is called the Blue Van — just after a popular NAAFI van in Germany which furnished incredibly hot foods and drink to troops — and provides lawful and economic information with the assist of military services charities including Fight Anxiety.

Pictured: Alderson House, Bridlington, East Yorkshire. In 2018, the Legion recorded an income of £163.2 million and had reserves of £70 million, according to its last annual report

Pictured: Alderson Residence, Bridlington, East Yorkshire. In 2018, the Legion recorded an cash flow of £163.two million and experienced reserves of £70 million, in accordance to its very last once-a-year report

Steve, who was in the Territorial Army for 34 yrs and is now an NHS finding out adviser, states: ‘More of the charities’ funds really should filter down to veterans. In the U.S. and Australia there is one centralised position of obtain which makes it possible for them to go to one organisation for support. There are so lots of distinctive United kingdom charities which are not co-ordinated. The lack of funds at grassroots stage is costing dozens of life every yr.’

Graham Cosham, sixty two, suffers from PTSD and makes use of the Blue Van centre. He served in Northern Eire, Berlin, Belize and labored in bomb disposal in Kuwait just after the 1st Gulf War. He observed colleagues blown up there, one just four ft absent from him. He, also, feels the massive charities hold on to funds. ‘Instead of stockpiling funds, ’ he states, ‘they need to have to undertake a much more “can-do” mindset to veterans.’

In reality, the Government is taking motion. Previous summer months, in one of his 1st functions as Prime Minister, Boris Johnson announced an Place of work for Veterans’ Affairs to marshal lifestyle-extensive assist for the estimated two.5 million ex-military services staff in Britain.

It will not conserve the lodges, nonetheless. The RBL argues that closure is the very best solution and that the assets are far better directed elsewhere. ‘We are now consulting with employees about our proposals to close the charity’s four lodges . . . as assist is accessible [to veterans] by other providers or much more price-helpful implies,’ it told the Mail.

Resort occupancy charges, which are good, did not influence the choice, in accordance to the Legion. ‘We have a obligation to shell out money on action that will have the best effect on the toughest problems confronted by our veteran neighborhood.

‘Since 2016, the charity has seen a 20 for every cent increase in men and women needing essential assist with housing, economic issues, mental well being and mobility,’ a spokesman told the Mail.

‘The common expenditure for every home by our immediate demands funding has risen 45 for every cent to £1,330 in that time.’

It extra that in 2018, the very last yr figures are accessible, it spent £56 million on welfare expert services and assisted 42,871 veterans.

But why are there so lots of grievances about the time veterans have to wait to get support, when they generally need to have immediate support?

The Legion said: ‘We are examining how we work and purpose to be a much more agile and responsive organisation, prioritising our assist to deal with the difficult problems confronted by our neighborhood currently.’

This will be scant consolation for the hotels’ supporters.

In Southport, Tim Petford, 78, who served in the artillery and is the town’s poppy appeal co-ordinator, told us: ‘We are furious.

‘Why has Byng Residence to shut when it costs a pittance to operate when compared to the funds the Legion raises? I believe I’ll eliminate a great deal of poppy appeal collectors up coming November about this. My deputy is refusing to support any much more.’

The regrettable timing of the Legion’s announcement about the lodges, a handful of days just after the 2019 Poppy Attraction finished very last November, still left a horrible flavor.

Thousands of veteran volunteers experienced just concluded trawling the streets in all weathers offering poppies to raise money for the charity.

Probably the most damning remark of all will come from Mike Rubery in Bridlington, who states: ‘We feel the Royal British Legion has dealt with us with disrespect.’



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