The Royal British Legion has undergone what it calls the "biggest transformation in its 93-year history" and has opened high-street advice and information centres in a restructure of its front-line service delivery.
The charity will open 16 "pop-in" centres in towns and cities across the UK. The first five – in Birmingham, Cardiff, London, Manchester and Southampton – were launched yesterday. All except Cardiff are now open, and all 16 will be open by the end of this year.
"No other charity has a presence of this nature on the UK's high streets, where members of the armed forces and the general public can pop in, as easily as going to the shops, for advice and information on the charity's support and community services," a statement from the RBL says.
The move comes after a three-year restructuring programme based on the findings of research conducted in 2005 and 2010 into the demographic and long-term needs of the armed forces community.
"Respondents said it was difficult to find the help they needed, either because of not knowing who to go to and what services were on offer, or because this information was hard to access," the statement says.
The charity said that would-be beneficiaries could also go through its website or call centre for advice.
The research was supported by the evidence presented by The Veterans’ Transition Review report, published in February by the Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft, the RBL says. Ashcroft’s report called for greater cooperation, collaboration and consolidation.
Chris Simpkins, director general of the RBL, said: "We know the total number in the armed forces community is set to decline, yet the demand for legion support is predicted to increase as the population ages and our beneficiaries' needs become more complex, especially among those leaving the forces and those who are wounded, injured or sick.
"We used our research to set a course to modernise the legion, to meet changing needs and become easier to find – both online and in person – positioning our services closer to where our beneficiaries live."
The RBL had an income of £124.6m in the year to 30 September 2013, employed 1,249 staff and had nearly 3,000 volunteers working for it.