Ministry of Defence halts funding for armed forces charity helpline

Gareth Thomas, the shadow civil society minister, condemns 'disgraceful decision' on ForcesLine, operated by the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA) Forces Help

Gareth Thomas
Gareth Thomas

Gareth Thomas, the shadow civil society minister, has described as "disgraceful" a Ministry of Defence decision to withdraw £330,000 of funding for a charity helpline, which has resulted in nine job losses.

The MoD had awarded the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA) Forces Help a contract to operate the Forcesline service for 14 years. It gives free, confidential advice to past and current members of the armed forces.

The MoD wrote to the charity in August saying the contract would finish at the end of September. It did not make a public announcement.

"This is a disgraceful decision, taken in the most abrupt and least transparent way imaginable," said Thomas. "The lack of notice suggests a wanton disregard for those servicemen and women and their families for whom this support line was a vital and much-needed service."

Thomas added the decision was "another sign that charities and other vital community service organisations are seeing their funding rolled back with little thought for the consequences".

SSAFA is using its own funds to maintain the helpline on reduced hours. A spokesman said it was disappointed by the MoD’s decision.

A MoD spokeswoman said: "Unfortunately, the number of calls to the line is declining and, to ensure value for money, the £330,000-a-year contract is not due to be renewed."

She said the MoD’s welfare support lines would continue to provide a support network for those who required it.

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