Released Tuesday 11 April 2019
I am writing to provide you with a further update on Council’s proposals to make changes to our welfare delivery, following the Association’s consultation with employees and the GMB Union that I informed you of in my previous correspondence and article in Air Mail.
When I last wrote, I spoke about the time and expertise that Council and members of Council committees, together with volunteers and employees, had invested in conducting a thorough review of our welfare delivery structure. I also explained that the review had included an examination of the effectiveness and regulatory compliance of our respite hotels.
These Council-led reviews are the result of our members asking for an ambitious organisational growth and development strategy that gives our Association a clear way forward to 2030 and beyond. In seeking to fulfil our vision and meet our objectives, we cannot stand still, but must constantly ensure we meet today’s welfare needs in the best way possible, while preparing for the future. We have therefore considered where our strengths lie and where we have to make improvements across the entire Association.
We already know that demand for our welfare services continues to increase dramatically. We also recognise that the care needs of our ageing population have changed significantly in the past few years alone. At the same time, there have been numerous regulatory and legislative changes that we must comply with. The growth in statutory requirements has been challenging to keep up with, and we do not anticipate the rate of change slowing down. It is vital that we comply with these legal requirements, as any failure would be a huge risk to our reputation.
The proposals affecting the welfare delivery structure in England and Wales and the closure of Richard Peck House have been the subject of comprehensive consultations with employees and the GMB union. These consultations have now concluded and we are grateful for the feedback given, and for the high level of professionalism displayed by everyone involved.
The conclusion reached is that the reasoning and logic behind Council’s proposals remain in the best interest of the Association as a whole. Nevertheless, we have listened carefully to our employees, and some of their suggestions will be implemented. Taking everything into account, the following decisions have now been made:
The Association’s seven area welfare offices in England and Wales will be replaced by three larger, regional hubs, each staffed by a team of five employees. The hubs will be based in Leicester (HQ), Preston (Area HQ) and Weston-super-Mare (Flowerdown House).
This change will come into effect on 6 September 2019, the date being agreed based on feedback received during the consultation. This will allow sufficient time to transfer seamlessly our services and safeguard the experience of our beneficiaries. A suggestion to appoint a temporary Regional Welfare Cluster Officer has also been adopted, with their role being to set up and support the development of volunteer groups.
A separate review is planned for the Association’s Scotland, Northern Ireland, European and Overseas areas, which are subject to different legislation and regulatory requirements. This will be complete by the end of 2019.
You may recall from my last correspondence, that a review found that the fundamental building structure of Richard Peck House (one of the Association’s three registered care hotels) was reaching the limit of its ability to remain compliant and meet beneficiary needs.
Following the employee consultation, we have made the decision to close Richard Peck House on 26 July 2019, with the final guests leaving on 23 July 2019.
Research is now underway to determine how our charity could best meet the future needs of beneficiaries seeking respite care breaks in the north-west of England.
I recognise that this process has been difficult for our area welfare and hotel employees affected by the outcomes of the reviews of our welfare structure and respite hotels. The reviews and decisions are in no way a reflection on them, something we have tried to reassure them about during our recent consultations. Indeed, I have been most grateful, and would like to thank them all publically for their continued dedication and commitment. Those facing redundancy as a result of the changes outlined above are being supported and will be given priority in applying for job vacancies within the Association.
I can also confirm that plans to bring branch welfare activity under the Association’s welfare governance practices are continuing. As well as benefiting those we help, this will also provide more support to our welfare volunteers. A steering group is being formed to aid the process. The group will develop its implementation and ongoing branch discussion timeframes in due course.
While change can often necessitate making difficult decisions, Council strongly believes that the above changes are essential in ensuring the Association is fit for the future. We have a proud history of supporting the RAF family and want to continue to do this in the best and most effective way we can, for the benefit of those we help. As we seek to continuously improve, we will invest as necessary in our welfare services, with decisions being informed by evidence-based analysis of current and future needs.
I would like to thank you, on behalf of Council and the whole of the Association, for your understanding and support as we proceed.
Air Vice-Marshal John Cliffe CB OBE
Chairman, Royal Air Forces Association
Released Thursday 14 February 2019
Our members have asked for an ambitious organisational growth and development strategy that gives our Association a clear way forward to 2030 and beyond.
To fulfil our vision and meet our objectives, we must be fit and ready for the future. For this reason, we are exploring where our strengths lie and where we have to make improvements across the entire Association.
We already know that demand for our welfare services continues to increase exponentially. We also understand that the care needs of our aging population have changed significantly in the past few years alone. Additionally, there are ever more regulatory and legislative changes and we must ensure we are compliant. These statutory demands and changes continue to intensify and, should we be found to be in breach of the legislation, the risks to our reputation are significant.
It is crucial that our welfare structure and delivery is fit for the future too. Through a Council-led initiative, Council and committee members, volunteers and employees have recently invested a great deal of time and expertise to review both the structure of our welfare delivery and the effectiveness and regulatory compliance of our respite hotels.
The findings were reported to Council yesterday and, as a result, they have proposed changes to the area welfare structure and to our provision of respite breaks, and have made decisions on changes to welfare policy to bring all branch welfare activity under the Association’s welfare governance and practices.
The Association currently runs three registered care hotels, the primary purpose of which is to provide subsidised holidays for elderly veterans, many of whom have mobility and more advanced care needs. The review concluded that the Wings Breaks Hotels offer a unique service, as they alleviate social isolation for guests who require care, provide a break for their carers and sustain a strong and valuable connection to the RAF. It also highlighted that we have some very dedicated employees in our hotels.
The review also examined current and future legislative compliance and has revealed that Rothbury House and Flowerdown House provide sufficient accessibility for our frail and elderly guests and they will meet regulatory standards into the future. Unfortunately, the review has also found that the fundamental building structure of Richard Peck House is reaching the limit of its ability to remain compliant and meet beneficiary needs.
After carefully reviewing all available options, the Association’s board of trustees has made the extremely difficult decision to propose closing Richard Peck House. The proposal is subject to the outcome of an employee and union consultation, and so a final decision has yet to be made.
Area welfare structure
The Association currently maintains seven area welfare offices in England and Wales. A review has highlighted that, although we have some very hard working employees, our current structure is struggling to cope with the increased demand for welfare services.
In order to ensure the most effective, efficient and needs-led welfare delivery, the Association’s board of trustees has carefully considered all available options and proposes restructuring the seven area welfare teams in England and Wales into three, larger regional hubs, each staffed by a team of five employees. It is proposed that these hubs would be based at the following locations: Leicester (HQ), Preston (Area HQ) and Weston-Super-Mare (Flowerdown House). This proposal is also subject to the outcome of an employee and union consultation, and so a final decision has also yet to be made.
A separate review will be undertaken for the Association’s Scotland, Northern Ireland, European and overseas areas, by the end of 2019.
Welfare policy changes affecting branches
It is imperative that we safeguard our beneficiaries and ensure that we are compliant with legislation and regulations, but we also have an important regulatory responsibility to safeguard our dedicated branch volunteers who undertake a great deal of welfare work. To do this, we have to make sure that they can carry on delivering their valuable service in a way that reduces their personal risk.
Council has decided that we will achieve this by bringing all branch welfare activity under the Association’s welfare governance and practices, and by providing our branch welfare volunteers with more support and guidance, as we do with non-branch volunteers. A branch consultation will take place between now and May 2019 to explain more fully the changes that will be made and to seek views on how best to implement them.
The specific changes in policy are as follows:
- All volunteer Honorary Welfare officers and Area Honorary Welfare Officers will be responsible to the welfare team for their casework with beneficiaries referred to them by the welfare team. In addition, they will be required to produce a final summary report of their casework with individual beneficiaries to the welfare team using a data-protection compliant process developed by the welfare team for this purpose.
- All branch friendship visits by branch volunteers are to take place within the umbrella of the befriending programme managed by the welfare team, with those taking part being required to undertake the befriending training course and recognised as trained befrienders.
- All branches will be required to submit a brief monthly report summarising all the welfare activities and welfare spending of the branch to their branch and the welfare team using a simple template that is compliant with data protection regulations.
- All new volunteer welfare officers must undertake the volunteer recruitment process to ensure the minimum requirements of the new Honorary Welfare Officer role are met and that officers are clear about what is expected of them in their role and activities.
- Volunteer clusters with volunteer leaders will be established as the building blocks for volunteer support.
New guidelines on best practice in branch welfare activity and welfare spending will be developed by the welfare team (in consultation with branches) and endorsed by the Council, and these will be monitored by Welfare Managers. This will reduce the risks to our volunteers by ensuring overall compliance and high standards of delivery for the entire Association. In addition, a universal welfare delivery, tracking and reporting system will help to ensure we maintain the high standards we all aim for.
The employee consultations regarding the future of Richard Peck House and revisions to the area welfare structure are likely to last until the end of March 2019. The resulting decisions will be announced soon afterwards. Branch consultations regarding the implementation of the changes to welfare policy affecting branch activity will primarily take place at Area Conferences and Annual Conference.
Our Association is going from strength to strength, but sometimes we have to make difficult decisions to ensure we can continue supporting the RAF family as well as we possibly can. That, after all, is the reason we exist. We must ensure the Association is able to give the very best support to the RAF family both now and in the future.