We stand united I hope this bulletin during these unprecedented times finds you well. This update includes information on the Association’s ongoing work during the coronavirus crisis; the latest news on Operation CONNECT (which is providing emergency support for our RAF community); and some information that will be of particular note for clubs that we know are facing a number of challenges. This email is being sent to Branch chairs, secretaries, treasurers, membership secretaries, points of contact and Branch Club committee members for whom we have an email address. As ever, please do send this update on to other committee members in your Branch and Club.
Association Headlines As is clear, we have entered uncertain times and this has impacted on the Association, its members, beneficiaries, services and employees. Current and predicted income has fallen significantly, and the pandemic has adversely affected our investments – as a nation, as a charity and for every one of us as we deal with the effects of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in our own homes and working lives. A number of colleagues have necessarily been furloughed at this time, leading us to focus resource where it is most needed, so please do bear with us if you have made contact. Telephone calls and emails will be answered as soon as is possible. Many of you will be reaching out to your members, especially those over the age of 70 or those who are vulnerable – thank you! Notwithstanding all the other support initiatives that may be evolving at this time, one of the simplest yet most effective things branches can do for their members right now is to establish and maintain regular communication with them, to provide a friendly and supportive ear, and to make sure that they know who to contact if they need to talk to someone or need further help. Sincere thanks to all of you for everything you are doing as we work to get through this crisis together. You will read below of the evolving Op CONNECT work that is the Association’s focussed effort to support those most in need at this time. We were delighted to receive nearly £50,000.00 to assist this emergency work, so a big thank you to: Formby; Isle of Man; Sale/Wythenshawe; Barrow-In-Furness; Leuchars; Aberdeen; Glasgow; East Kilbride; Keyworth; Aylesbury and Halton and Boston. Thank you also to Thetford who have already submitted their Wings Appeal funds for the year to date, and a further generous sum. We would be delighted if other branches also considered doing this. Lastly and by way of advice, we would encourage branches to understand the work of their Local Resilience Forum. Each local authority is organised differently but by understanding what is in your neighbourhood, you might be able to better support your vulnerable members at a local level.
Op CONNECT We have launched four emergency projects to support vulnerable members of our RAF community at this difficult time. Over 200 volunteers have so far been recruited and deployed to support these new services – but we still need more volunteers to help support all of these projects. We are also launching an emergency appeal to support our efforts – which I will update you on in future bulletins. The projects are: 1. A telephone outreach service which is proactively contacting high-risk members of our RAF community to check on their welfare and offer them regular friendship telephone calls from a nominated volunteer. We are aware of over 30,000 people who fall into this category and, supported by many of our branches, we are striving to make contact with as many as we are able. If you can help volunteer for this service, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you know of anyone who could benefit from regular telephone friendship calls, please ask them for their permission to register them for the service, then email email@example.com with their details. 2. A friendship helpline (0800 018 2361) which anyone in our RAF community can call if they are feeling lonely, isolated, in need of more specific support or simply want a chat with someone friendly who understands. Not having someone to talk during these challenging times can be very lonely. 3. We are providing emergency provisions of food and hygiene supplies to the doorsteps of the most vulnerable members of our RAF community. This is an emergency service: those who have an ongoing requirement for supplies are initially provided with emergency bag drops, but are also referred to our welfare team who will assist them in finding a longer-term solution. If you become aware of anyone within our RAF community who is running out of supplies and cannot make their own arrangements for more to be purchased, please ask them for their permission to register them for the service, then email firstname.lastname@example.org with their details. If you want to volunteer to help, please email email@example.com. 4. A daily RAF-themed entertainment programme that people can look forward to as part of their routine while they are isolating, from quizzes to live-streamed sing-a-longs and armchair fitness sessions. So far, we have had over 1,000 guests taking part in our live sessions (Brews, fitness, music, history etc), 2,000 people have taken part in the weekly quizzes and over 60,000 people watched our first singing session alone.
Clubs With Clubs closed we know that there will be much concern, and we previously provided details of the Government support for businesses and would urge all Branch and Club officials to read what is available. It is important to remember that Clubs are the employer for Club workers and neither Branches nor the Association can subsidise wages or give grants. However, a range of support measures (ranging from furlough support to grants) are available from central and local Government. Some local authority support will be provided without any action, but Branches and Clubs are urged to remain up to date with Government advice: In the last Branch Bulletin we set out some grounds on which Branch Committees could reasonably consider offering rent holidays or reductions to Clubs and in these exceptional circumstances we see no reason why the Branch Committee could not apply the same reasoning to the Club’s request for some temporary financial support in respect of other occupancy costs. Some Branches have identified a concern over their Club’s ability to meet utility bills over the coming months until the Club can access the Government’s support. Within the range of reasonable decisions, the Branch Committee could agree to provide temporary funding to the Club to cover the utility bills pending receipt of any government grant on the basis that, in the current national crisis, this is in the best interests of the Branch. It is important for the Branch Committee to recognise that this argument should not be used to essentially prop up a Club which is generally failing. But in the current circumstances where a Club has had to close through no fault of its own and can show that it is waiting to receive Government grants, Branches may consider offering their Club a short term loan, thus avoiding the Branch losing its rental income and becoming responsible for the upkeep of the building. Where Branch Committee members are also Club Committee members, they will have a conflict of interest and should not participate in the discussions or decisions about any temporary loan. Any decision should be in writing – but clearly an exchange of emails will suffice in the current environment.
Clubs as employers and the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme In order to assist, the following advice on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is offered to Branches and their Clubs employing staff. The scheme is a temporary support measure open to all UK employers for at least three months starting from 1 March 2020. It is designed to support employers whose operations have been severely affected by coronavirus (COVID-19). This will include Clubs, as these were closed by the Government on Friday 20 March 2020. Expected to be available by the end of April, HMRC will have a portal to claim for 80% of furloughed employees’ (employees on a leave of absence) usual monthly wage costs, up to £2,500 a month, plus the associated Employer National Insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions on qualifying earnings unless your employee has chosen to opt-out or to cease saving into a workplace pension scheme.You can use this scheme any time during this period. The scheme is open to a Club if you have created and started a PAYE payroll scheme at 28 February 2020, and have a UK bank account. If you have not already enrolled for PAYE online you will need to do so and this can take up to 10 days.
Membership We want to make it as easy as possible for our branches to be able to renew members at this challenging time. To avoid having to send a cheque or paper applications, why not try one of the new initiatives we introduced in 2020? Online Forms 4 and 5 –a new way to submit members and renew existing members online, without the restrictions of post and delivery times. When you submit a membership batch you will be sent an invoice with a 30-day credit term, eliminating the need to post paper applications to RAFA HQ. Visit our new Branch membership FAQs page to find the answers to questions about invoicing, processing times and other helpful information.
Air Mail The latest Air Mail has been dispatched, although we understand that mail services, especially to overseas addresses, may be disrupted. For that reason Air Mail on this occasion is also available as a digital copy and can be accessed online.
Finally These are very challenging and unprecedented times. By pulling together we will do all that we can to support each other and meet the needs of the most vulnerable members of society in the RAF family and we should all be proud of that, as the Association focusses on the four main projects within Op CONNECT. The Secretary General writes: ‘We are committed to doing everything we can to keep our Association strong during this challenging period, and in making sure that we can maintain the support we exist to provide to our members and wider RAF community. Everybody’s part in this is as important as ever. Together, we will ride out this difficult time and emerge stronger than ever.’ Very few of us could have put it better, so let’s get through this together. With heartfelt thanks and pride, Del Rowlands Director of Membership
This email is from the Royal Air Forces Association. Our website is at www.rafa.org.uk. You are receiving this email because you have previously requested more information from the Royal Air Forces Association. You may unsubscribe at any time if you prefer not to receive emails. The Royal Air Forces Association is a registered charity in England and Wales (226686) and in Scotland (SC037673). Registered address: Headquarters, RAF Association, Atlas House, Wembley Road, Leicester, LE3 1UT. For general enquiries please call 0800 018 2361.