NEW research published by the Directory of Social Change (DSC) and commissioned by Forces in Mind Trust, shows that a relatively small number of charities are generating and spending close to £1 billion annually in support of the armed forces community – including those in active service, veterans and their families.
The latest data published in Sector Insight: Armed Forces Charities illustrates how the UK’s 1,843 armed forces charities – which represent less than 1% of the UK charity sector – provide a vast range and depth of support to beneficiaries and a massive financial benefit to the state.
The armed forces community in the UK includes around 6.3 million people, including serving personnel, veterans, their partners and children. With support from Forces in Mind Trust, DSC extensively researched those charities which dedicate themselves to serving this community.
Welfare charities are typically some of the best-known armed forces charities, helping for example veterans with combat injuries or other health and social needs. Although this type of charity represents only 26% of armed forces charities (479), they accounted for almost 70% of the income and expenditure of all armed forces charities combined.
A shrinking sector
Despite recurring claims that there are ‘too many forces charities’, DSC’s latest analysis found the armed forces charities sector is shrinking, losing on average 44 charities each year – with charities registered in Scotland closing at double the rate of new ones opening. The report finds that welfare charities are some of the most vulnerable to closure. Still, much smaller, local association branch charities have been hardest hit, accounting for 40% of all closures since 2012.
Armed forces charities are highly reliant on public donations which have been severely disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic – threatening their current and future service provision. The report shows that 60% of charities with annual incomes above £500,000 were capable of covering 12-months’ expenditure from their reserves alone, but conversely, 40% had less than 12-months’ available. 88% of forces charities are below this income threshold, and financial data on them is less robust. It remains to be seen how many charities large and small will survive the pandemic and to continue to provide support.
Lead author of the report, Stuart Cole said:
“Armed forces charities provide everything from complex physical and mental rehabilitation, to housing and social activities. The money these charities raise and the services they provide aren’t an ‘add-on’ or ‘nice to have’ – they’re central to the quality of life for millions of Serving and ex-Serving personnel and their families. If they disappeared overnight, the state would have to pick up a substantial portion of the financial burden – but the negative impact of the pandemic represents a real risk to these services in the near and medium-term.”
Ray Lock, Chief Executive of Forces in Mind Trust, said:
“Sector Insight is part of a series of reports by DSC that Forces in Mind Trust has funded over the last seven years, and we are very proud that they are regularly used by some of the most senior policymakers, media commentators and service providers. Our overriding ambition is to make an impact – these seminal reports have done so up to now, and I’m determined that the latest work will continue this success.
“While the data from this report was collected before Covid-19, it provides us with an excellent and thorough picture of what the Armed Forces charities sector looked like before the pandemic and will enable us to examine what the impact on the sector will be in the years ahead. Over the last few months, we have been working closely with DSC and Cobseo – the Confederation of Service Charities to measure the impact of Covid-19 and there is no doubt that it has been huge and devasting for many of our charities. We will continue to produce high-quality, independent research and foster collaboration both within the sector, and with government, to help identify the best way forward.”
General Sir John McColl, Chairman of Cobseo, said:
“Considering the COVID-19 pandemic, the sector will undoubtedly need to change significantly over the coming months and years, and the hard decisions that will need to be made will be informed by the detailed and thorough analysis of the sector provided by this report.
“The Service Charity Sector has a long and successful history of co-operation and collaboration and whilst good progress has been made in delivering efficiencies and rationalisation, we can and need to do more to ensure that the vital support provided by Armed Forces charities can continue. This report provides a comprehensive starting point to enable the sector to move forward, and the breadth and depth of the research will benefit the whole of the Armed Forces Community that we are all here to serve.”
Download the report for free at www.armedforcescharities.org.uk
Want to learn more? Join DSC live online at 14:00 on 20 August for a launch presentation and live Q&A session at https://www.dsc.org.uk/dsc-fimt-sector-insight/