Unity urged over military charities
The former head of the Army, Sir Richard Dannatt, has called for military charities to work better together after an investigation revealed that 2,000 armed services fund-raising groups have a joint income of £800 million.
The investigation by British Forces News, part of the British Forces Broadcasting Services, found that the number of new charities set up to support the military has tripled each year since 2005.
Sir Richard said: "I think the issue that is perhaps most pertinent to the service charity community is whether in fact there is a case to be made for better co-ordination and co-operation between the charities, so that there isn't overlap and that people aren't duplicating what someone else is already doing."
He added: "The general public and particularly people who have not traditionally given to service charities have given a lot of money over the past three or four years.
"Will this wave of public support last forever? No it won't. What really does matter is that while the armed forces are attracting popular support then that's maximised and the money the public very generously gives is put to good cause."
The biggest forces charity is the Royal British Legion, with an income of £125 million. Director General Chris Simpkins said: "Our income through fundraising has gone up every year for the last three, four years. It continues to rise, frankly it continues to rise to an astonishing extent."
Chief executive of Veterans Aid, Dr Hugh Milroy, said: "Like anyone else I am surprised at the number, but I have watched it grow steadily over the last 18 months, obviously current operations are affecting that.
"Veterans are for life, not just for Christmas. So the real issue is about who's going to be here, can everyone sustain themselves for the long haul? Because the main charities like SSAFA, the Legion, Combat Stress, Blesma and ourselves are in it for the long haul. Veterans Aid has got to concentrate on making sure we're not just about a particular operation."
Help for Heroes has so far raised £82 million and spent or allocated £80 million of that. Founder Bryn Parry said he has a shopping list of another £40 million so is refusing to rest just yet. "I hope to get to £100 million by June at the latest and keep on going until the late summer and until we hit the extra £40 million mark, but we have some pretty big plans."
Denny Wise set up the Forces Children's Trust seven years ago when a friend's son was killed while on operations. Last month he won a military award for his support to the armed forces. He said: "I can understand that every mother who's lost a child in Afghanistan wants to do something but it can be overkill, I think that if they were to join up with someone like us and ask what they can do for a charity it would be better."