As the nation recalls the dark days of 1940 and honours the brave RAF airmen who fought in the Battle of Britain, the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund is trying to help veterans who are having dark days today.
Too often we hear stories of elderly veterans who have outlived their family and are spending their later years in solitude. But our new research tells a slightly different story.
The Report finds that significant numbers of RAF veterans both young and old are experiencing depression, loneliness, relationship troubles, and bereavement. These concerns join self-care and mobility as the top welfare needs of the RAF veteran community.
The RAF Benevolent Fund commissioned the research to identify the changing needs of the RAF family. As the Second World War generation sadly passes, the National Service community ages, and younger veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan gradually leave the RAF, our services must adapt to meet their needs. And while we found that issues with self-care and mobility continue as the top welfare needs, social isolation was clearly an equally pressing, yet hidden, need.
We know it can be hard for a proud veteran who has served his or her country to ask for help. By the very nature of their training they are taught to be self-sufficient and to tolerate adversity. Many may assume that nothing can be done or they fear a social stigma from asking for help. Perhaps this helps explain why 92 per cent of those reporting a psychological problem did not seek help in the past year. But there is no reason to suffer alone and in silence.
With an estimated 100,000 elderly members of the RAF family suffering loneliness and bereavement, the RAF Benevolent Fund is keen to tackle the issues highlighted in the research head on. We have launched a new Individual Support Service specifically to help vulnerable, isolated, or bereaved members of the RAF family with assistance tailored to each individual's needs. We can help directly, providing aids such as a mobility scooter to help get out and about, financial assistance or even providing domiciliary care to help an elderly or disabled veteran stay in his or her home near family and friends. We also provide advice and assistance such as therapy sessions and social activities through a network of partner charities, such as Relate and the Not Forgotten Association.
The thought of these proud men and women suffering in silence, having served their country, is saddening and unacceptable. Yet the greatest challenge to helping them is a practical one - we need to tell them that help is at hand through the RAF Benevolent Fund.
We are asking anyone who might know of RAF veterans - friends, family, neighbours - to tell them that we're here to help. Whether they served 70 years ago in the Second World War, are a widow of a National Service airman, or are perhaps a younger veteran going through tough times. We are their charity, we understand, and we are here to help.
For more information, please call 0800 169 2942 or visit our website at rafbf.org/help