The number of armed forces charities and the amount of money donated to them is in decline, according to a report launched this afternoon by the Directory of Social Change.
The publication, Sector Insight: UK Armed Forces Charities, and an accompanying website have been developed with funding from the Forces in Mind Trust and in collaboration with the Confederation of Service Charities, to improve understanding of the size and nature of support provided by the UK armed forces charity sector.
The research looks at the finances, purposes and functions of more than 2,200 armed forces charities, challenges the belief that there are too many armed forces charities and says that the sector has contracted in recent years.
Income for the majority of armed forces charities in Britain, which totalled £872m in 2012, fell during that year for the first time since 2008, the report says.
It says that the largest 122 armed forces charities by annual income were responsible for 84 per cent of the sector’s total income.
"Claims about there being too many charities are partly driven by a lack of understanding of the huge diversity of armed forces charities operating in the sector," it says.
"These claims have also been boosted by a perception that the armed forces charity sector has undergone a large expansion in recent years. Contrary to this, our research shows that the sector has actually contracted over the past few years."
It also says: "It should be noted that in 2012 the income of the majority of armed forces welfare charities fell for the first time in years, and only the income of newly established charities allowed the sector as a whole to continue to grow (in particular the £35m start-up endowment received by the Forces in Mind Trust from the Big Lottery Fund)."
The report highlights that this reduction in income coincides with a time when the needs of beneficiaries are likely to increase because of the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, the restructure of the armed forces and cuts to the Ministry of Defence, the NHS and other public services.
Debra Allcock Tyler, chief executive of the DSC, said the report would provide much-needed evidence for donors, politicians and other decision-makers.
"Our aim is that better information will lead to better policy and decision-making," she said. "This is about the future of support for our brave service folk and their families."