In light of last night’s announcement about ‘lock down’, I would like to update everybody about how we are continuing to provide support at this time – and how we are operating generally.
All staff are now working at home. If you need to get in touch, please in the first instance use email or phone. Supporters can use firstname.lastname@example.org / 020 7901 8900 and individuals in need of help can follow contact guidance here: https://soldierscharity.org/need-our-help/individual-grants/. If post is your only option, please forgive us if it takes us rather longer than it would in normal circumstances to respond to you.
We have of course put in place measures to maintain our grants programme during these extraordinary times. Individual grants, which will always be our priority, are still being processed as normal and we are working to ensure that those with immediate needs and in crisis can be supported, even if the casework provided to us is minimal in nature. Current circumstances will undoubtably place the caseworking organisations we partner with, such as SSAFA and The Royal British Legion, under pressure for some while and we are working closely with them and with the Regimental and Corps charities to mitigate any potential issues where possible.
We are also continuing to make substantial grants to other charities and organisations that support the ‘Army Family’ – indeed our quarterly grants application window for the June grants committee will open shortly as normal – although our priority as ever is meeting the needs of individuals in the first instance. Our anticipation and current understanding is that many partner charities are rowing back their programmes due to the movement restrictions we all find ourselves under; programmes involving outdoor or group activities or respite breaks, for example, will not be happening in the near future. We are in constant dialogue with our partners to ensure understanding and mutual support at this difficult time. Fundamentally, we are not changing our established position which is to help where we can.
In terms of our income, like very many others both in our sector and beyond we have had to postpone or cancel a huge raft of events, including the Lord Mayor’s Big Curry Lunch, the Cateran Yomp and other flagship events. Usually we hold in the region of 600 events across the year and all of these are now cancelled or on hold. That said, we are grateful to our hugely loyal supporters, many of whom have been declining to ask for a refund or have sent a cheque in lieu – and we are innovating with virtual events too.
We are a charity for the ‘long haul’ and our reserves holdings reflect this posture. Of course the valuation of our reserves has changed substantially in light of recent events and we want to avoid damaging our long-term capital base by selling devalued assets. We have entirely adequate cash for the foreseeable future and plenty of measures we can take to further mitigate risk. So for now and in the short to medium term be reassured that, thanks to a lot of hard work and careful management, we are well able to react appropriately to need as it arises without damaging our capital base. Beyond the short to medium term, I think it is difficult to forecast where any of us might be but rest assured the major charities are coordinating closely as you would expect in conjunction with our ‘trade body’ Cobseo, and are in discussion with Government.
Finally, it would be remiss not to mention how brilliantly everybody has responded to these unprecedented times – our staff, our supporters, our volunteers, our partner charities and our Army counterparts. As the Army’s national charity, we have a part to play in alleviating need and supporting the national effort at the present time. We will continue to closely monitor the situation and will always make informed decisions in the best interest of the soldiers, veterans and families who need our help.
With very best wishes to all.
Major General (Ret’d) Martin Rutledge CB OBE