WRITTEN EVIDENCE SUBMITTED BY THE WOMEN’S ROYAL ARMY CORPS ASSOCIATION
SUPPORT TO FEMALE VETERANS
Introduction and Summary
The WRAC Association is the only female specific charity supporting veterans who have served in the Army. The charity has been supporting female Army veterans for 102 years, a century which has seen considerable change both in opportunities for women to have careers in the Army and in the Terms and Conditions that women have served under. The Charity financially supports those who served in the Women’s Royal Army Corps and the Auxiliary Territorial Service. However, membership is open to all women who have served in the Army. With this long and consistent experience of supporting women who have served in the Army, we are extremely well placed and informed to offer expert evidence to the Committee.
The Charity supports female veterans in two main ways; firstly, as a membership organisation with membership benefits through our 50 Branches worldwide and secondly, the distribution of benevolence grants which are to purchase specific goods, services or facilities for eligible former servicewomen, or their dependents, in need. The overriding principle is “a hand up not a hand out and is based on a real need”.
Applicants with one day’s paid service are eligible to apply for help. Grant giving criteria are approved by the Trustees for use in deciding applications and financial need remains the determining factor in assessing each individual grant.
The Benevolent Fund provides 2 categories of support – regular payments known as recurring grants and one-off grants.
Until 2019 regular payments were only made to women of state retirement age. These were the Annual Maintenance Grants (AMG) provided by the Princess Royal’s Memorial Fund (PRMF).
In 2019 the Benevolent Fund recognised that the last few years had seen an increased need of those in financial hardship particularly those below state retirement age. This required the introduction of new AMG categories to include those made to women below retirement age with financial difficulties. Recurring grants now include PRMF AMG, Overseas PRMF AMG, Benevolent Fund AMG and Benevolent Fund Support Supplements.
The Benevolent Fund contributes to nursing home top up fees. Again in 2019 it was decided to introduce two new grants to support those needing care. One was to assist women with care at home and the other to provide a personal expense allowance for women who are in a nursing or care home and wholly dependent on the state’s Personal Expense Allowance to meet their personal needs.
The Benevolent Fund can grant up to £6000 for a one-off grant. Such grants can be for funerals, EPVs, priority debts. Further details are at Table 3.
The Welfare Grant was introduced in 2019 primarily to assist WRAC Association members to attend either Branch or Association social events where without the grant they would be unable to do so. Due to the social restrictions introduced by the government due to Covid-19 no applications for this grant have been received in this financial year.
Grant Giving Criteria
These are published on the Casework Management System (CMS). This system is sponsored by COBSEO (The Confederation of Service Charities) and is used by charities in the Military Service sector. Through this system they are available to the almonising agencies, predominantly, the Armed Forces charity, and The Royal British Legion. The grants are paid to these agencies for disbursement on behalf of the charity rather than direct to applicants. The Benevolent Fund has no direct contact with the beneficiary. The only exception to this is the Welfare Grant which is paid directly to the individual Association member supported by receipts.
The Benevolent Fund only holds a limited amount of information on each beneficiary and to meet the GDPR requirements it only retains the information needed to process the application for funding. This means it does not hold the socio-economic & health data contained in CMS for each applicant. Since the adoption of Salesforce as the Beneficiaries Database in 2017 more personal details of individuals have been retained such as marital status, civilian employment. However, this data is dependent on whether it has been input into CMS by the caseworker. This varies from case to case which means the data is not consistent.
Review of Benevolent Fund Spend 2000-2020
Table 1 Benevolent Fund Spend
Table 2 Benevolent and Princess Royal Memorial Fund Spend
Table 3 Assistance Categories
What happened in 2015?
There were 495,000 deaths in England in 2015, just over 26,000 more than in 2014.
This was the biggest year-on-year increase in deaths since the 1960s.
ONS issued a provisional report on deaths in 2015, noting that there was a spike in deaths at the start of the year, which coincided with the peak in flu activity during the winter of 2014/15.
There was a significant increase in the mortality rate in 2015, with most of the ‘extra’ deaths that year seen in people aged 75 and over.
And there was a larger increase in female death rates than males, and most of the increase in deaths in people aged 75 and over was made up of deaths with a certified underlying cause of dementia/Alzheimer’s disease or respiratory diseases, including flu and pneumonia.
The reasons for the increase in 2015 have been the subject of much debate. We’ve been investigating potential factors, including the impact of population changes in more detail, and international comparisons, which add to evidence already reported by ONS.
Table 4 Applications Received
2009 shows a shift where WRAC cases became higher than ATS. This will be caused by ATS veterans reaching the average life expectancy of a UK female which was 82.4 in 2009. A lady who was 20 in 1944 (ATS) would be 85 in 2009.
Table 5 Age of Applicants
Average age of applicants
Collaboration with Combat Stress – The Female Veterans Study
The aim is a dedicated project to allow us to recruit sufficient numbers of female veterans to conduct well powered analyses to understand the needs of female veterans. To meet this aim Combat Stress have collaborated with the WRAC Association to survey our members. The study has five main aims:
Data was collected between September and October 2020 using an online self-completed survey. We had a response rate of 750/1680 = 44.6%.
Data analysis is now taking place. Emerging findings show higher rates of PTSD & anxiety depression in the WRAC cohort compared to the general veteran cohort. Over the first quarter of 2021 we will be looking into the five aims highlighted within the study summary in more detail after which we will be better placed to answer more detailed questions.
We would welcome the opportunity for further participation in the Call for Evidence at the Focus Groups.
Colonel (Retired) Isabel McCord Colonel (Retired) Ali Brown
Chairman of the Benevolent Fund Vice President/ Chair of Trustees
17th January 2021 17th January 2021