Tuesday, 31 May 2011

SPVA's got specs appeal

Staff from SPVA in the South West have been recycling their old spectacles to support an overseas charity.

Working with colleagues from other government departments - HM Revenue & Customs and DWP, on the HMRC appeal to recycle spectacles through Vision Aid Overseas.  The appeal has achieved fantastic results with the target to recycle 10,000 pairs of glasses by end of June 2011 already surpassed and a new target of meeting the 15,000 mark set.

According to the Vision Aid charity, 670 million people - 10 per cent of the world's population - are disadvantaged by poor vision and a lack of glasses. The charity helps some of the poorest people gain better sight by giving them eye exams and matching them with a pair of donated glasses.

 Just think, that old pair of glasses you never use, could be help someone overseas live a better life.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

295 miles in four days

Three of our staff: Matt, Dan and Ed (or three middle-aged men in Lycra, as they call themselves) are attempting to cycle 295 miles in four days for charity.

Their cycling quest will raise money towards a minibus that BLESMA will use to transport limbless ex-Servicemen and women from the North West to Headley Court for rehabilitation.

Their four day epic journey will start on Monday 27 June at the BLESMA home in Blackpool, ending 295 miles later at the BLESMA home in Crieff, Scotland on 30 June.

If you'd like to sponsor the ride, then visit their justgiving page.

BLESMA (British Limbless Ex Service Men's Association) is the national charity for limbless serving and ex-Service men and women, their dependants and widows.

Countdown to Armed Forces Day begins

Two Royal Navy divers display the Armed Forces Day Flag before commencing a diving job with HMS Bulwark
[Picture: Leading Airman (Photographer) Joel Rouse, Crown Copyright/MOD 2011]

We're just a one month away from this year's Armed Forces Day.

Armed Forces Day 2011 will be held on Saturday 25 June, with events taking place up and down the country over the two-week period from 18 June to 3 July.

Edinburgh are hosting the national event with a full weekend of Armed Forces Day-related activities, starting on Friday 24 through to Sunday 26 June.

Visit the official site to find out about events in your local area or how to get involved.  We're also working on an Armed Forces Day podcast with interviews with key people working on the events, so keep an eye (or an ear) out for our next release in a couple of weeks.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Help for Armed Forces to step on the property ladder

Service accommodation at Woolwich, South East London (stock image)
[Picture: Crown Copyright/MOD 2010] 
Members of the Armed Forces will from now on be given top priority for housing help.

The move follows a Military Covenant Housing Summit chaired by Housing Minister Grant Shapps and means that serving members of the Armed Forces, as well as those recently retired, will be able to benefit from the FirstBuy Scheme, providing £400 million to help 10,000 families across the country get on the property ladder over the next two years.

The Minister has also signalled that the Government will ensure that all low-cost home ownership schemes will now routinely place members of the Armed Forces at the top of their priority lists, and that government housing agents will be instructed to go out and actively recruit military personnel for such schemes.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Sir Bill Rollo visits the Agency

Sir Bill meeting staff from the Veterans Helpline

DCDS Pers Lt Gen Sir Bill Rollo visited our offices based in Blackpool today.  Sir Bill is the Deputy Chief of Defence Staff responsible for MOD personnel.

During his time here, Sir Bill visited the Veterans Helpline, met with staff working on the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme and discussed veterans welfare with the Officer in Charge of the Veterans Welfare Service

Sir Bill listening into a call

During his visit to the Helpline, Sir Bill had the opportunity to talk to staff from the Helpline and Customers Services Teams about their work, learn about the types of enquiries received and how staff build up their skills to become helpline operators.  While on the tour, Sir Bill was able to listen in on a call to the helpline.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Edinburgh prepares for UK's biggest-ever Armed Forces Day

Preparations are in full swing to host a three-day celebration of the UK's Armed Forces in Edinburgh this summer which takes on the mantle of the national centrepiece for 2011's Armed Forces Day celebrations.

Edinburgh is gearing up to lay on the biggest-ever Armed Forces Day national event from 24 to 26 June 2011, with a parade, musical entertainment, exhibitions, aerial displays and a Royal Navy ship open to visitors.

To find out how Edinburgh is celebrating Armed Forces Day, visit their website.

We're current developing a podcast for release early June where we interview a couple of people involved in organising Armed Forces Day, so watch this space.

Events are being held across the UK to celebrate the day, if you want to find out what's being planned in your local area then it's worth checking out the official website.

From Tudor times to present day

Our latest video was launched today and is available to view now, it's the fifth video we've launched and our previous films can be viewed on our YouTube channel.

Our new release looks at the history of the War Pension Scheme, the first formal scheme to compensate battle casualties and their families was conceived during the reign of Elizabeth I over 400 years ago. Today the scheme is run in conjunction with the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme.

We've also recently released podcasts explaining the recent changes to the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme that you might find interesting, they can be downloaded via our Social Media Hub

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

The Armed Forces Covenant

The tri-Service Armed Forces Covenant was published for the first time along with the announcement that with an amendment to the Armed Forces Bill, its principles will be enshrined in law.

The covenant is a statement of the moral obligation which exists between the nation, the Government and the Armed Forces.  Its core principles are that members of the Armed Forces Community do not suffer disadvantages as a result of their service and that they receive special treatment where appropriate. 

These principles, put into law through an amended Armed Forces Bill, will set the tone for future government policy dedicated to improving support for the Armed Forces Community.

The Government has also published ‘The Armed Forces Covenant: Today and Tomorrow’ where you can find details of  the current actions being taken to deliver the Covenant and future commitments being implemented over the coming months and years

The covenant can be downloaded  here.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Join in 10th anniversary celebrations at the Arboretum

Armed Forces Memorial at Dawn (courtesy Nick Mott)

As part of the National Memorial Arboretum’s (NMA) 10th anniversary celebrations, members of the public are being invited to attend a very special Summer open evening event.

Taking place from 6pm on this Wednesday, you will have the chance to explore this remarkable site, which is set in over 150 acres of wooded parkland and has over 200 memorials, at a time when visits are not normally allowed.

Laying wreath on Armed Forces Memorial (courtesy Driftwood Images)

The evening will feature a talk by Chief Executive Charlie Bagot Jewitt. He will reflect on what the Arboretum, which is part of The Royal British Legion family of charities, has achieved over the last ten years. He will also explore the vision for the Arboretum and explain the current status of the £8million NMA Appeal and landscape plans.

Armed Forces Memorial at the NMA (courtesy Red Devil Photography)

For more information,  contact the NMA. Gates are open from 6pm and the presentation will start at 7.30pm. Admission is free, although donations are appreciated. Guided tours are available, however a charge applies and advance booking is recommended. Light refreshments will be available from the Arbour Restaurant until 9pm and gates close at 10pm.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Changes to AFCS

Today, the revised Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS)  was launched, incorporating all of the recommendations made by Admiral the Lord Boyce, former Chief of Defence Staff, in his Review of the Scheme in 2010.

This means Service personnel who become injured or ill as a result of their service will now be able to benefit from an even more comprehensive compensation package.

And from today, all Service personnel and ex-Service personnel who submit a claim for AFCS compensation will have their claims assessed under the new rules.

This means that they may benefit from several changes to the scheme, notably:
  •  An increase, which averages in excess of 25 per cent, to all lump sum payments, except the top award which was recently doubled to £570,000; 
  • An increase to the maximum award payable for mental illness from £48,875 to £140,000, in order to accurately reflect the impact of the most serious mental health conditions; and
  •  An increase to all Guaranteed Income Payments (GIPs) which are paid to those who are seriously injured. A GIP is a monthly tax-free, inflation proof income stream which is payable from discharge, for life. The increase reflects the lasting effect of more serious injuries on future promotion prospects and on the ability to work to age 65.
Anyone who have previously received an award from the scheme (since its started in April 2005) will have their awards uplifted in line with the new increases. Over the next year, our Agency will be reviewing some 10,000 awards and informing previous recipients of the increase to their awards. Those affected do not need to take any action, we will be contacting you.

The contact card designed to fit in a wallet

There have been significant changes made to the scheme, with some 69 changes made, from a change to how we calculate claims where an individual has suffered multiple injuries in a single incident - compensation is now paid for each of the injuries to improved awareness and understanding of the scheme in the Armed Forces community.


The AFCS leaflet ready to download

So, to get more information, you can visit the AFCS webpages which has been updated with new pages of information and materials targeted towards Service personnel; families and dependants; and the wider military support network.

You'll be able to download an AFCS leaflet, contact card, poster, presentation or podcast. We’ve produced a series of three podcasts providing information on the changes which include an interview with the Army’s Pay Colonel, Colonel Fiona Gardner. You can download the podcasts direct from the the SPVA social media hub or via iTunes.

This poster is available to download and print

If you do want to speak to someone direct, you can phone our free helpline - 0800 169 2277 - for further advice and guidance.  The chain of command or voluntary organisations are also able to provide support.
I f you have a specific query or need advice relating to claims then call our helpline on 0800 169 2277 or visit the MOD and SPVA webpages.

New directory is quite ‘handy’

The go-to guide on Service charities
 COBSEO, The Confederation of Service Charities has just published its 2011 directory or ‘handbook’ of Members.

COBSEO currently comprises some 180 member organisations ranging from the larger charities such as The Royal British Legion, SSAFA FH, Seafarers UK, ABF-The Soldiers Charity and the RAF Benevolent Fund, through the medium sized charities including St Dunstan’s’, BLESMA, Combat Stress, Help for Heroes, Forces Pension Society, Officers’ Association, Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity and Royal Air Force Association to smaller charities and Regimental Associations.

The book contains details of around 180 organisations
 It’s a handy size that can easily fit in your briefcase or bag, so you can always have it to hand when you need details of organisations that support the Armed Forces Community.

The handbook been designed to be an easy and complete reference identifying COBSEO’s member organisations, contact details and scope of operation. It tells you what each member organisation does and the specific needs they cater for, in a clear page-per-organisation way. It is designed as a go-to guide and reference book.

The online version of the handbook can be found here and there is a web-based search engine which enables users to easily search and access the handbook, using keywords or phrases. So if you were looking for help with housing, the search engine can provide those member service charities which could provide that specific help, it’s that simple to use.

If you want further information, or a copy of the handbook (£5 each to cover production costs, including postage and packaging) then call Sophie Lucas on 0845 504 6633 or email officemanager@cobseo.org.uk