The Royal British Legion plans to close its four hotel “break centres” and stop providing a home maintenance service in order to save £5.8m a year.
It said the decision had “not been taken lightly”, but had been taken because the charity has experienced an increase in demand where “the type of support needed is growing increasingly complex with people requiring help across multiple issues”.
Announcing the news on its website, the charity said: “People are coming to us with multiple needs where a holistic approach providing ongoing support is required. We are seeing people at their lowest ebb, at risk of homelessness, and in dire financial situations where they can’t afford to feed their families.”
The decision will affect 153 jobs at the charity.
RBL said: “The decision to close our break centres and handy van service has not been taken lightly, and with sadness as we know the services are much loved and some colleagues will be leaving the charity. The affected staff have all contributed greatly to our work, they are part of our community, and we are doing all we can to support them in their next steps.”
RBL has four hotels around the country offering serving and ex-service personnel the opportunity of a short break at little or no cost. Applications to stay at the break centres have now been suspended.
The announcement that the centres will close has not been popular with some in the communities affected.
In Somerset a local councillor has organised a petition calling for the centre to stay open and accused the charity of not listening to concerns. The Weston, Worle & Somerset Mercury reported that Weston Town Council has now said it will write to RBL to try and explore ways to keep the centre open.
Elsewhere RBL said it was re-evaluating its provision in Northern Ireland, where one of the centres was based, and that until July the building in Portrush will be used for its Poppy Club and be available to other community charities.
In the year to 30 September 2018, its latest available accounts, RBL reported a total income of £163.2m.
Some 5,741 people “relaxed and recuperated” at its break centres. It spent £6.5m on running the four centres.
The handy van service carried out small home repairs, such as putting up shelves and assembling flatpack furniture for armed service personnel, veterans and their dependents.
‘Increased resource for casework’
RBL said that since 2016 it has seen a 20 per cent increase in the number of people needing basic support with housing, financial issues, mental health and well-being and mobility.
It said it would use the savings to “provide increased resource for: casework and providing support that fits individual need; immediate-needs funding including crisis grants; investment in our care homes and services for older members of the Armed Forces community; and funding external grants to organisations providing specialist support”.
RBL is in the process of developing a new strategy to “ensure it is having the greatest impact, making the most of its resources, and evolving in line with changes in the armed forces community”.
Editor's note - 27 January 15.30
This article has been updated with additional detail about the number of jobs affected by the decision.