News Archive

Defence Cuts “The Falsest Of False Economies”

1st December 2017

Cutting back on military training to save cash would be “the falsest of all false economies”, a former member of the top brass has warned. Lord Stirrup, an ex-chief of the defence staff and independent crossbencher, argued that “challenging, rewarding and exciting” instruction for troops was vital to the retention of personnel, on which the capability of the armed forces depended. He sought government assurances as ministers were again tackled in the House of Lords over the threat of further defence cuts. As well as rumours about possible reductions to the strength of the Army, there have been concerns about the future of armoured vehicle programmes and suggestions that amphibious assault ships HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark could be axed alongside the loss of 1,000 Royal Marines. False Economies Lord Stirrup said: “Our future military capability depends on retaining sufficient talented and experienced personnel. “That retention in turn depends on offering those personnel sufficiently challenging, rewarding and exciting training. “Can the minister reassure the House that, in its search for savings, the Ministry of Defence will not be looking to cut back in this area, which would be the falsest of all false economies?” Unhelpful Atmosphere Defence minister Earl Howe said: “The challenge, when looking for efficiencies rather than straightforward savings, is to achieve the same or a better level of outputs with the money available. “I can tell him that, while training is of course under the spotlight, what we do not want to do is to dilute or degrade the quality of that training for those whose standards we set great store by.” Lord Howe also said reports around the national security capability review had “created a deeply unhelpful atmosphere of uncertainty for many of our service men and women”. He again insisted no decisions had taken. Impact On Morale Former Royal Navy chief and Labour peer Lord West of Spithead said blaming press speculation was “slightly disingenuous”. He said: “These clearly are things that are being looked at in that arena, and that causes a great deal of worry. “There is no doubt that the continual downward pressure on defence is having an impact on morale.” Former army chief and independent crossbench peer Lord Dannatt argued a modest rise in the defence budget “would have an inevitable upward boost to morale”. Lord Howe said: “There are many of us who wish the defence budget were larger but every department of government has to live within its cash-limited means.” More from Forces.net  

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RAF Centenary Charity Appeal launched

4th November 2017

A major fundraising appeal has been launched by the Royal Air Force and its four major charities to mark the RAF’s centenary in 2018. RAF100 brings together the Royal Air Force, the RAF Association, the RAF Benevolent Fund, the RAF Charitable Trust, and the RAF Museum to establish a legacy that matches the vision of Viscount Trenchard who steered the formation of the RAF in 1918. RAF Achievements  Speaking at the appeal launch at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London, Air Marshal Sir Baz North said the centenary provided a unique opportunity for the nation to look back at the RAF’s achievements, recognise the vital role it plays today and create the impetus to look ahead to the next 100 years. Members of the public have already started their own fundraising initiatives, and a number of RAF100 Appeal Days in major UK cities will take place where military and civilian volunteers will come together, standing shoulder to shoulder to raise funds for the appeal. Few Untouched Appeal Chairman Simon Collins, said: “Very few British people can look back at their family history over the past 100 years and find themselves untouched by the courage, capability and achievements of the men and women who served – and continue to serve – in our Royal Air Force. The RAF100 Appeal provides an opportunity for us all to pause and say: ‘thank you’ for what you’ve done, for what you’re doing and for what we can depend on you to do in the future.” A number of leading companies in the UK have already pledged more than £2 million to the appeal, including headline sponsors Babcock, BAE Systems and Fujitsu.  

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Mental health: We owe our soldiers a duty of care, says Tobias Ellwood

25th October 2017

IN THE WAKE of the death of former England footballer Terry Butcher’s son Christopher, who had struggled to cope since returning from Afghanistan, Defence Minister and former soldier Tobias Ellwood MP looks at boosting the mental fitness of our Armed Forces. Taboo Subject Let’s talk about mental fitness, not mental health.  When I served in the Army mental health was a taboo subject. Any sign of mental fatigue would often court the response “Suck it up – where’s your man-suit?” or other phrases unsuitable for print. In contrast, physical injuries were recognised as par for the course. A twisted ankle would require rest and rehabilitation, and there was a recognition that stepping away from duty for a period to repair would not be career inhibiting, nor was there any humiliation attached to admitting the injury in the first place.  New Approach We should acknowledge that for too long mental illness has been ignored or misunderstood, shrouded in an unacceptable stigma and seen as secondary to physical health. Left unaddressed it destroys lives, breaks down relationships and leads to premature departure from the Armed Forces. So we are introducing a new approach. A cultural change where all in uniform see the mind as a muscle that can be strengthened as well as repaired, just like any other part of the body.  Today’s top-level sports competitors are only too aware of how mental preparation can significantly affect their performance, and this also applies to those in the Armed Services. Our aim is to change the way mental illness is viewed so that striving to improve mental fitness is seen as just as natural as striving to improve physical wellbeing.  Significant Areas We will achieve this through four significant areas: 1. Better Education and Promotion: to all ranks and levels as to why we must look after our mind.  2. Prevention: Greater self-awareness of what to look for and better resilience training for the rigours of combat environments and operational stress. 3. Improved Detection: Encouraging responsibility for identifying and supporting our people with mental health challenges.  4. Early Treatment: With a view to helping the individual rehabilitate and swiftly return to duties.  This five-year strategy will see a seismic change in our support for forces personnel and their families. We will do this through partnering with charities, the NHS and Defence Medical Services. No one can predict when mental health support might be required and issues may arise many years after retirement from the Armed Forces. So our veterans must also have access to the support they may need.  Most successfully re-integrate into civilian life. Indeed, 90 per cent have a job or are back in education within six months of leaving the forces.  Single Contact point Thanks to the generosity of our nation there are more than 400 charities supporting our veterans’ community. But it can be confusing to know, in that moment of need, which way to turn. The launch of the Veterans’ Gateway, backed by £2million of Government money, simplifies this as a single point of contact for veterans. Credit must be given to Prince Harry in promoting the importance of mental fitness through his Heads Together campaign and Invictus Games. The MoD and Royal Foundation also launched a partnership on mental health, committing to work together on both training and education.  Dispel Myths It’s important to dispel the myths that you are more prone to suicide, PTSD or mental health concerns if you have served. The opposite is true in all three cases; risk is higher among the general population. But where help is needed it should be provided. No military personnel or veteran should feel they cannot speak out. We must do more to raise awareness of the support available. When we attempt to define what Britain is and our role in the wider world one quickly references the professionalism of our Armed Forces. This can only continue if we are committed to the people who fill the ranks. Our new mental fitness strategy is long overdue and will ensure the nation’s duty of care to those who step forward to wear the uniform continues.  For help contact PTSD Resolution: 0300 302 0551, ptsdresolution.org or Combat Stress: 0800 138 1619, combatstress.org.uk            Full Express Article Here  

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New research centre established to support Armed Forces community

20th October 2017

Policy makers, professionals and members of the public with an interest in ex-Service personnel and their families will be among those to benefit from a new research centre set up specifically to support the research needs of the Armed Forces community, which launches this week. Enabling Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT), a charity whose aim is to provide an evidence base that will influence and underpin policy making and service delivery in order to enable ex-Service personnel and their families to lead successful and fulfilled civilian lives, has provided funding to Anglia Ruskin University to run the FiMT Research Centre (the Centre) in support of this aim. Shared Understanding The Centre, which resides within the Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education as an integrated part of the Veterans and Families Institute at Anglia Ruskin, will provide a UK-based research-enabling and production facility that will help deepen shared understanding and develop links between the academic community, government organisations, statutory and voluntary service providers, the media, and members of the public.  The Centre will do this through several means, including:   Providing advice and support to charities and other service providers who are engaged in or have an interest in research relevant to ex-Service personnel and their families Producing fresh research into key issues facing ex-Service personnel and their families to aid understanding and improve policy and service delivery Organising an annual conference with an awards ceremony to celebrate recently completed research into issues affecting the Armed Forces community. The FiMT Research Centre will also manage the Veterans and Families Research (VFR) Hub, a newly launched, easily searchable and free-to-use online resource that will deliver a contemporary and authoritative source of UK and international research-related information on military veterans and their families. This includes a number of factors affecting the transitions to civilian life for serving personnel and their families. Collaboration The Hub’s facilities will help enable the widest spectrum of users, from academia, the government and the media to third sector service deliverers and lay users, to find information, collaborate and share information.  Ultimately, the Hub aims to stimulate research and policy development, improve service delivery, and enhance shared understanding and can be accessed at www.vfrhub.com. Commenting on the launch of the FiMT RC and VFR Hub, Lord Ashcroft, Chancellor of Anglia Ruskin University, author of the Veterans Transition Review, and Patron of the FiMT RC, said: “In my work on the transition of service personnel back into civilian life, one theme that has arisen time and again is the problem of finding reliable, easily accessible information that could help policy makers reach decisions, the media report accurately about veterans, and be an invaluable resource for the Armed Forces, veterans and the wider public. First port of call “The Veterans and Families Research Hub, operated by the FiMT Research Centre at Anglia Ruskin University, will become the first port of call for everybody who wants to find good information and the best research. It is welcome and much needed, and I encourage everybody to use it and submit their research and studies to it, so that we quickly establish the world’s centre of excellence in this field.” Ray Lock, Chief Executive of Forces in Mind Trust, the funding organisation behind the FiMT RC and VFR Hub said: “Since its inception, Forces in Mind Trust has worked hard to improve the quality and quantity of the information and data that decision-makers can draw upon when analysing and discussing the varied challenges faced by our serving men and women as they make the transition to civilian life. “The launch of the research centre and hub represents a significant step forward toward this vitally important goal, which in turn will result in better understanding of and service provision for ex-Service personnel and their families.” Ultimate Benefit Alex Cooper, Director of the FiMT Research Centre, said: “There has been much research carried out into military veterans and their families but it is fragmented, of varying quality and is not always easily accessible.  The FiMT RC and online VFR Hub provide key resources for those seeking a better understanding of issues affecting UK and international military veterans and their families by offering a variety of easily accessible research-related resources and services.  Whether actively searching the VFR Hub for information or collaborative opportunities, to seeking advice and support from the research centre, hopefully this resource will help inform all manner of people who are interested in, or are working within this important field, ultimately to benefit the Armed Forces community”.  About Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) FiMT came about from a partnership between the Big Lottery Fund (‘the Fund’), Cobseo (The Confederation of Service Charities) and other charities and organisations.  FiMT continues the Fund’s long-standing legacy of support for veterans across the UK with an endowment of £35 million awarded in 2012.  http://www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/. The mission of FiMT is to enable ex-Service personnel and their families make a successful and sustainable transition to civilian life, and it delivers this mission by generating an evidence base that influences and underpins policy making and service delivery. FiMT awards grants (for both responsive and commissioned work) to support its change model around 6 outcomes in the following areas: Housing; Employment; Health and wellbeing; Finance; Criminal Justice System; and Relationships. All work is published in open access and hosted on the Veterans’ Research Hub.  A high standard of reportage is demanded of all grant holders so as to provide a credible evidence base from which better informed decisions can be made. Website: www.fim-trust.org Reports: www.fim-trust.org/reports/ Twitter: @FiMTrust  

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Time to Tackle Public Misconceptions over our Veterans

18th October 2017

The public overestimates the extent of serious problems faced by former Armed Forces personnel, according to new research from Lord Ashcroft, the Prime Minister’s Special Representative on Veterans’ Transition. The survey, which formed part of his annual update to the Veterans’ Transition Review, found the average estimate of the proportion of veterans with physical, emotional or mental health problems was 54%. More than three quarters thought mental health problems were more likely to happen (and more than a quarter that they were “much more likely” to happen) to former members of the Forces compared to people in general. Public Perceptions 82% of the public thought mental health issues were among the most common problems faced by people leaving the Forces – ahead of “problems adjusting to a civilian environment” (65%), “physical injuries or physical health problems” (61%) and “problems finding a good new job” (41%). In focus groups, members of the public associated Service leavers with qualities including discipline and leadership, but often spontaneously raised problems including mental health disorders, aggression, addiction and homelessness. In the three years to April 2017, 13.4% of those leaving the Forces were medically discharged, including 7.45% due to musculoskeletal disorders or injuries, and 2.37% due to a mental health condition[1]. Whole military population studies by the King’s Centre for Military Health Research have found that the overall rate of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder rose from 4% to 6% in the ten years to 2014-16, compared to 4.4% in the general population[2]. Call for a new approach Commenting on the findings, Lord Ashcroft said: “Military service can be dangerous, and those who need help after they have served should get the very best available. But the great majority of those leaving the Forces go on to lead normal, healthy, productive lives. They have a vast amount to offer. The idea that they are likely to be damaged is wrong, and creates a barrier both to those seeking civilian work, and to recruitment into the Armed Forces. That is why my report calls for the government to adopt a new approach to changing these misguided perceptions.” In his report, which has been delivered to the Prime Minister and Tobias Ellwood, Minister for Defence People and Veterans, Lord Ashcroft recommends that this should be a task for the newly established Veterans Board, drawing on expertise from outside Whitehall. He concludes: “Improvements will not come from doing more of what we are doing now, or even doing it better. It will require a new approach, bringing in expertise that government offices do not have, and must be driven with leadership and sustained energy at the highest level.” Some concerns despite improvements The annual report, in which Lord Ashcroft reviews progress on the delivery of changes he recommended in the 2014 Review, finds improvements in areas including career transition, the handover of medical cases from Defence Medical Services to the NHS, and the creation of a single point of contact for Forces charities. However, Lord Ashcroft reiterates concerns, raised in previous reports, that provision throughout the UK remains uneven, with Service leavers and veterans in Northern Ireland still at a disadvantage compared to those in England, Scotland and Wales. 1. Annual Medical Discharges In The UK Regular Armed Forces, 1 April 2012 to 31 March 2017, MOD, July 2017 2. The Mental Health Of The Armed Forces, King’s Centre for Military Health Research, July 2017  

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Military charities could be failing veterans, Charity Commission warns

13th October 2017

Military charities set up in the aftermath of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars could be failing to protect veterans, the Charity Commission has warned. The watchdog said it was concerned that some of the charities set up to help former military personnel by people “with good intentions” were not being run properly.  Charities Failing In a report released today the Commission said its enquiries suggested that some charities did not consider users with mental health problems as a result of serving in the forces to be “vulnerable”. It said it had found a “concerning lack of safeguarding policies and practices” and that some charities were failing to carry out DBS checks on their workers to make sure vulnerable veterans were protected from exploitation. It also said its own work suggested that “military charities appeared to be at greater risk of compliance and reputational issues, which could affect public trust and confidence”.  187 New Charities The Commission said it had seen a rise in organisations set up to help veterans of Middle Eastern conflicts, with 187 new military charities registered since 2007.  One charity, the Excalibur Unit, had employed an outside fundraiser and there had been complaints from the public about “aggressive” tactics, as well as concerns that much of the money the fundraiser made was not going to the charity itself.   The Commission found that 80 per cent of money raised through the sale of merchandise was retained by the fundraiser. It said it had “serious concerns” about the impact of the complaints on the charity’s reputation. It added that the trustees had recently decided to wind it up entirely. Another charity, Standeasy Military Support, only implemented DBS checks for a volunteer after the Commission’s intervention.  The Commission added that “most of the military charities we engaged with did not have adequate policies in place to deal with complaints”. “Military charities often have a high public profile, so we would expect trustees to recognise this and be prepared to deal with complaints that are made,” the report said.  Think Carefully Michelle Russell, Director of Investigations, Monitoring and Enforcement at the Charity Commission, said: “Some veterans may be potentially vulnerable for a variety of reasons because of what they’ve seen and been through, and charities set up to help them must make caring for them, and protecting them, an absolute priority. “The public would be rightly concerned if veterans were exposed to harm through a charity supposed to help them.” She said that anyone thinking of setting up a military charity should “think carefully” before doing so.  “There are other ways of supporting the armed forces community, including supporting with money or time an existing, established veterans charity. Setting up a new charity may not be the most effective way to help,” she added.  Charities also failed to exert sufficient control over their finances, and many did not have an effective financial plan. There were also concerns about conflicts of interest with trustees potentially gaining “unauthorised” benefits in one case.  The Commission examined 21 randomly selected military and veterans’ charities and visited five which it had serious concerns about. As a result of the audit, a statutory inquiry was opened into one of the charities, Support the Heroes, which appeared in a BBC documentary, The Great Military Charity Scandal, last year. The inquiry is ongoing.  Highest of Standards General Sir John McColl, Executive Chairman of Cobseo, The Confederation of Service Charities said: “We strongly support the Charity Commission’s scrutiny of safeguarding and fundraising practices, not just for the Military Charities on its register, but across the entire charitable sector.  “Service charities play a crucial, and highly effective, role in supporting the Armed Forces Community. “Cobseo, The Confederation of Service Charities, strives for the highest of standards amongst its membership and will continue to work closely with the Charity Commission in pursuit of this goal.”  

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Could you have an unclaimed Service pension?

3rd August 2017

If you served after April 1975, you could have a preserved pension. AFPS 75 pensions earned before April 2005 are payable when you are 60 years old, but you won’t receive it automatically – you have to make a claim. Initially, personnel had to serve for five years and be at least 26 years old to qualify for a pension. From April 1988, this reduced to two years paid service from age 18, or age 21 for Officers. Preserved Pension The amount you receive depends on when, and for how long you served. If you left service in April 1978 with a preserved pension of £800, you would now have a preserved pension of over £4,000 and a preserved pension lump sum of over £12,000. If you left service in April 1982 with a preserved pension of £1,100, you would now have a preserved pension of about £3,500 and a preserved pension lump sum of almost £10,500. Annual Pension Increase Even if you only served for a short time, it’s still worth making a claim. This is because the value of a preserved pension increases annually with the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) from age 55, and you may be eligible for a tax-free lump sum when you claim.The amount of money you receive could make a real difference to everyday life. The Forces Pension Society can give further assistance with claiming your pension.  For more information on support available to veterans use this link Veterans Gateway Website  

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It’s “unOfficial” a World Record for Galanos House, Southam College and Surrounding Schools

13th July 2017

  Today, 2609 people, from all over the area surrounding Galanos House and the market town of Southam; gathered at Southam College to attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the Largest Human Flower. Subject to verification from Guinness World Records, participants aged five years to over 100 years of age, from the Military, surrounding schools, Rotary, Royal British Legion Riders, RBL Branches and the WI; supported residents, volunteers, staff and friends of Galanos House in making the attempt possible. Thanks go to so many people for their support, particularly to Southam College. More to follow soon. Editor  

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Armed Forces Day with a Warbird

26th June 2016

“Our Man” from St James’s received a “bucket list” gift from his family a few months ago, a flight in a Spitfire at the Imperial War Museum, Duxford on Armed Forces Day. This is his report on what was a very surprising day. Ed. Inspirational A drive eastwards into Cambridgeshire is now a very pleasant experience, especially early in the morning on a Saturday in mid-June. With memorials and remembrance being closer to the public consciousness than ever, a trip into the eastern UK offers some inspirational opportunities to embrace remembrance whilst acknowledging that no-one escapes its effect or has nothing to contribute in the support of our Armed Forces and Allies. Cambridgeshire has a long and proud history as a location for the Military and our Allies, including, their commemoration and remembrance. Non more so than my first surprise, coming across the magnificent Cambridge American Cemetery at Coton. Donated by Cambridge University, this site was dedicated on July 16th 1956 (60th Anniversary next month) to provide a burial ground for American personnel in perpetuity. My early arrival meant it was closed, nonetheless, worth the return journey in the near future. Warbird Heaven Arrival at IWM Duxford was a quiet affair, (it opens at 10.00 AM) only staff and student warbird pilots are allowed in early. I was given my orders by a very happy man at the gate. “Great day for it, turn left, go to the end of the hangar, turn right, drive to the control tower, park up, Nicky will meet you.” She did, and was as happily efficient as all our previous communications had suggested, when she laid out the schedule of the morning. My second surprise came during the briefings, when every new risk I was about take was explained and followed by Nicky saying, “you can of course opt out at any stage, right up to sitting in the aircraft!” I didn’t, and was fitted for my flightsuit, shown how to adjust it to my waist then ushered off to see “my kite” and pilot. In all honesty, I had already seen “my kite” along with other members of the Classic Wings fleet. A D.H. Chipmunk, Dragon Rapides, Tiger Moths, a T6 Harvard and, of course, the Spitfire; an aircraft that was first seen by the Great British public on 27th June 1936 at RAF Hendon (80 years ago on Monday). The T9 Spitfire ticked all my particular boxes, it had seen action, it had all the right elliptical curves, beautiful camouflage scheme, a Merlin engine and, most importantly, a rear seat for me. Time to meet the pilot. Legend Rarely, do you meet someone, who you can have complete confidence in from the start. My third surprise came in the inspirational form of Anna Walker who is somewhat of a legend in warbird circles, a pilot as a teenager, a certified display pilot, experienced in aerobatic and formation flying, film and TV work, the list is very long and distinguished. My fourth, came in the knowledge that she is an expert on The Air Transport Auxiliary and believed to be the only female Hawker Hurricane pilot since the 1940’s. Safe hands indeed. Anna did my pre-flight briefing at the Spitfire including, what not and what to touch, what we would be doing and what we wouldn’t and, my absolute favourite, it would be my choice as to whether the flight would include a victory roll. I decided it… Warbirds are go  From closing the canopy, it was very powerful experience, the sound of a Merlin engine 20ft away and any view with a Spitfire wing in the foreground is enough to make anyone cheer loudly and drown out the engine.  Once airborne, the exhilaration was interrupted by a list of questions, how did WW2 pilots cope, how did they manage to spot other aircraft and were they always in a state of such heightened senses? The answers came in a radio call from Anna asking me if I would like to take control? I took control (marginally), I coped (a sunny day over England for pure pleasure), I spotted a few (nowhere near as many as Anna) and I have never felt so chuffed with the world and life. High over the tree lined avenues leading to the Wimpole Estate, we completed two life affirming wingovers and then came the decision…. my victory roll, we did it, it felt glorious and despite wanting to shout and cheer, I was speechless. Anna explained calmly that it was time to return to Duxford and that we would be doing one final flypast and wing waggle over the airfield. My last, in a day of surprises, was perfect; as we joined the circuit I could see two Tiger Moths on the move and my warbird pilot told the air-traffic controller to keep them still or we would open fire! He chuckled and as we started our flypast I heard in my headset very quietly,“dakadakadakadaka” I think! A lot of what followed was a bit of a blur. I remember chatting to some of the Classic Wings team and seeing the passion, pride and love they have for these marvellous machines; reminding me, that is important to remember how the brave members of our services went into battle and the enormous character that was needed. My enormous thanks go to Nicky Jiggins and the Classic Wings Team, aviatrix extraordinaire Anna Walker and Cambridgeshire for getting on my “bucket list.” “Our Man”   I have heard that “Our Man” will only believe this all happened when the DVD arrives. Ed.  

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