RIFT Chairman Jan Post writes about her visit to the RBLI Centenary Village.

“In 1919, the war was over but for many, the everyday battles continued…”

One hundred years later, that same ethos of care, training and employment is still at the very core of RBLI, and I’m delighted that we’re able to offer our support to serving and ex-forces personnel through the charity.

As part of the charity’s 100th birthday celebrations in March I was delighted to attend the event “In Conversation with General Sir Gordon Messenger KCB DSO OBE ADC'', and visit the RBLI centenary village with the RIFT Armed Forces Liaison Officer, Shaun Micallef-Green Capt (Retd) AGC(ETS)T

The Centenary Village vision began in 2015 when RBLI launched their new strategy ‘Improving Lives Every Day’. To mark the centenary the village is being expanded even further to ensure it will be able to support more than 100 veterans in need at any one time and their families for the next 100 years.

As I’ve become aware through our work with forces personnel here at RIFT, many find leaving the Armed Forces a challenging experience.  Even something as “simple” as renting in the private sector can be a challenge and single men, in particular, can struggle to access social housing, with many ending up sofa-surfing or worse, homeless. This becomes a vicious cycle where they find it impossible to secure employment without a fixed address, experience money issues and often relationship breakdown.

The charity is also well known for its support of veterans with disabilities or long-term health conditions – both in managing newly gained conditions/injuries and providing help to cope with any associated life changes. The village offers properly adapted homes with access to healthcare and employability services on hand that help to reduce social isolation, especially for those veterans who have additional complex barriers to independence.

The Royal British Legion Industries charity is about more than just putting people back into sustainable employment – although that’s an incredibly valuable part of its work. More than that, though, it’s about changing people’s lives. Only a few short weeks into 2019, RBLI has already made an enormous difference to UK Armed Forces veterans and their families.

As part of the RBLI centenary celebrations RIFT, along with 100 other businesses, recently donated £1,500 to RBLI to fund a LifeWorks course place for a veteran struggling to find work outside the Armed Forces. With around 120,000 ex-Service personnel unemployed across the UK, surveys show that they’re twice as likely to find themselves out of work as the general population.

Their LifeWorks programme has provided assistance and support to 42 veterans and military spouses, and they’ve brought stability and safety to the lives of 3 more through their emergency accommodations – 2 of whom were living on the streets. All these people are now on the path to better lives and real opportunity thanks to the RBLI’s work this year alone.

The LifeWorks programme is an intensive course that offers real-world support on everything from employability to resettlement, and their success rate in getting Armed Forces attendees back into work within a year is an impressive 83%. At the same time, they’re providing invaluable personal support for suffering people, 79% of whom are living with some form of disability or mental health condition.

RBLI’s work is inspirational and we’re looking to work even more closely with the charity to help forge paths to sustainable employment for veterans who are currently serving custodial sentences or are former prison inmates locked into a destructive cycle of re-offending. Applying the same core principles as the original LifeWorks scheme, we’re teaching people to invest in themselves and tackle the personal and practical hurdles they'll face after release. We’re also working with employers to help them understand the benefits of employing people they’ve been ignoring for far too long, changing attitudes both inside and outside the prison walls.

2019 marks RBLI’s centenary, and it would be easy to talk about the charity exclusively in terms of the huge number of people they’ve helped or the vast economic and social benefits they’re bringing to the UK. Their work is making an undeniably amazing impact in all those regards. However, if RBLI teaches us one thing above all else, it teaches that it’s worth looking more closely at the individual stories that make up the bigger picture, which is something I passionately believe in and one of the reasons that I set up RIFT 20 years ago and continues to guide the company to this day.

RBLI have already raised £12m of this ambitious £22m campaign, and will need another £10m to build phase two of the Centenary Village. If you’d like to get involved in supporting the programme at a personal or a corporate level than you can find out how on their website https://www.rbli.co.uk/donate as well as reading more about where the money goes and the very real difference this makes to people’s lives.

If you're a currently service member of the Armed Forces, or if you've served within the last 4 years, find out more about how RIFT can help you claim a tax refund for any work related travel or expenses you had to pay out for.