It is a pleasure to follow all colleagues who have spoken in this debate. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the D-day landings in Normandy, and although many Members of the House—and, indeed, outside it—are far more qualified to speak on that issue than me, I wish to use my role as co-chair of the all-party group on charities and volunteering to thank those voluntary organisations that exist to support veterans and their families, including current serving personnel.
The Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund marks its centenary this year. It was set up by Lord Trenchard with donations from the public, and it still supports veterans, serving personnel, and their families. All support is tailor-made, but the charity provides assistance in 12 key areas: financial assistance with day-to-day living costs; unemployment, retraining and resettlement support; help with housing; disability adaptations and aids round the home; mobility equipment; care costs; support for carers; wellbeing holiday breaks; help with funeral costs; benefits advice; housing and care advocacy; emotional health and wellbeing, and so much more.
Like many of the finest charities, the fund works in partnership with others, including case working organisations such as SSAFA and the Royal Air Forces Association, which have direct contact with those who need their assistance. Every serving member of the RAF voluntarily donates half a day’s pay to the fund, and last year it spent £21.4 million on supporting beneficiaries, meaning that more than 55,000 people received RAF Benevolent Fund support.
I have chosen to mention that fund today because it wants more beneficiaries. This year, the charity launched a new campaign—Join the Search. Change a Life—to raise awareness of the fund, and to find RAF veterans and their families who have fallen off the radar and help them before it is too late. It is concentrating specifically on the national service generation. There are currently 1.5 million people in what is described as the RAF family, three-quarters of whom are over 65. Worryingly, the benevolent fund estimates that up to 300,000 members of the RAF family could be in need of support, with about 100,000 of those in urgent need.
The benevolent fund wishes to double the number of people it supports and ensure its sustainability for years to come. I am pleased and privileged to raise the matter in the House. We never know who reads these debates in Hansard, follows them in the media or watches BBC Parliament, but we know there are a lot of such people. If only a few of them are able to get in touch with the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund and help someone in need, my small contribution to today’s important debate will have been worth it.