Peer urges more cooperation and consolidation of armed forces charities

The Veterans' Transition Review, published by Lord Ashcroft, says the multiplicity of charities means the best use is not being made of resources

Veterans: too many charities?
Veterans: too many charities?

Lord Ashcroft has called for greater cooperation, collaboration and consolidation in the armed forces charity sector.

The Conservative peer this week published his report The Veterans’ Transition Review, which looks at the policies and provision for service leavers in areas such as education, training, employment, health, housing and welfare.

The report concludes that although there is no shortage of provision for service leavers, preparation by the individual leaver and a good supply of information are important for a successful transition into civilian life.

But it is critical of the "multiplicity of charities with overlapping aims" that support the armed forces and says there is often duplication of services. The report says this represents poor value for the donors who fund them.

"While individual charities may believe they are making the best use of their funds as an organisation, collectively they are not," it says.

One of the report’s main recommendations is that a single contact centre, open 24 hours a day, should be set up by the Veterans Welfare Service and forces charities with a single telephone number and website address. This would be given to all service leavers on a new card for veterans.

"This would encourage collaboration within the charity sector, end the confusing array of charity information service leavers currently encounter and ensure those who need help can find it straight away without having to make several calls or being passed from one organisation to another," the report says.

It says that "greater cooperation, collaboration and consolidation in the armed forces charity sector" should be encouraged through Cobseo, the confederation of service charities.

Cobseo is described in the report as an "inspired initiative" that has made considerable progress, but it is criticised for being governed by the major charities because this means it cannot insist on change, enforce cooperation or judge the effectiveness or otherwise of individual charities’ performance.

Lieutenant-General Sir Andrew Ridgway, chair of Cobseo, said there should be increased collaboration between armed forces charities but forced mergers should be resisted.

"My view is that the diversity of the charitable sector is a very significant strength and not a weakness," he said. "Diversity ensures all the small needs of service personnel get met, not just the big needs.

"It encourages people to raise money and get involved so that members of the armed forces know they have support from the community."

Cobseo encourages collaboration between charities, it brings the armed forces charities together and identifies duplication and gaps, Ridgway said.

"We recognise the need for further collaboration and cooperation," he said. "A lot of work on this is already being done."

He said that the number of armed forces did present challenges, and that it was important donations were not wasted on unnecessary administration, duplication and a failure to embrace best practice.

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