How We Work - General Information and Some Case Studies
The type of assistance that we can provide to a Beneficiary (someone who has served, is serving and a dependant is their wife, partner, children under 18 or 25 if in higher education) depends on their needs.
- We undertake a holistic assessment based on the beneficiaries needs. Added to this is the current situation, Covid, the floods in Almoradi and Dolores, so both the setting and the individual needs inform us both of the need and speed of the process to assist someone.
- As a Charity we have to ensure that grants meet the requirements of the Royal Charter and any other relevant regulations.
- We cover the whole of Spain and the islands and there are 2 co-ordinators one for the Canaries and Andalucía, the other for the rest of Spain.
- Where possible, we would normally send a trained caseworker but with COVID-19 we now work remotely with beneficiaries, except when they have serious mental health issues and have no support.
- We consider all circumstances and where for some reason we cannot help we will always find another charity that can - either in Spain or, based on previous employment, in the UK.
- In some circumstances we may authorise an Immediate Needs Grants of up to €375
- We carry out a lot of sign-posting to other services as well as giving grants. We’ve dealt with about equal numbers of each this year – more than 300 of each.
This case was passed on via Facebook where a man said he was homeless and wanted to die. He was living on a campsite just as the floods started and had been told to get of the campsite by the next day. No other campsite would let him say as he only had a car, a tent and no money.
We found him some temporary accommodation after agreeing to pay for a chalet for him on another camp site. The next issue was they would only take cash but finally accepted a payment order. The next day a caseworker visited and more details emerged.
He had previously had a successful finance job. He and his wife only had each other as the felt they just needed themselves - they had no children and no friends. Sadly, his wife suffered from an incurable neurological disease and they had given up everything sold their home and all their possessions in a desperate attempt to cure her and her husband came to Spain, “as he might as well be destitute and warm”. Sadly, she had succumbed to her condition.
Once we had found secure accommodation which met his needs, given him an Immediate Needs Grant, arranged telephone buddies and visitors and helped him see the light at the end of the tunnel, we were then able to start repatriation for him. He agreed that there was nothing here for him but he could work, if given accommodation and the help and support he needed in the UK.
We supported him in Spain while Veterans Aid agreed to help in the UK with accommodation, support and help with finding a job. It took about another 2 months to get him back to the UK - after about 3 months support in the UK he was living independently, with a job in IT in London and was promoted to Head of IT for the company.
Then he did an amazing thing, when COVID-19 started, he took a homeless veteran off the streets and gave him a home as he wanted to pay back the help he had received.
Support for the Elderly
An elderly lady contacted us as she had been affected by the flooding in Dolores and had to leave her home but could not afford rent as well as her mortgage (aged 85)
Her neighbours found a flat with a lift and we paid the rent bond and the rent. Her motor scooter had been damaged in floods so we got her a new one as the other was not repairable. She also mentioned that not only was she in debt and suffering from terminal kidney disease but her husband was in a home with dementia and had run up loads of debt that she was unable to pay. She was waiting to go on dialysis so she could have him home and care for him.
We gave her an Immediate Needs Grant and gained approval for funding to support her and to pay for the portion of the nursing home fee she could not afford; additionally, she had to have a special diet to help with her renal failure and could not afford this.
She received a grant to cover her expenses and replace furniture and white goods which the insurance company refused to cover. Sadly, her husband died shortly after she moved back into her own home so was never able to move back but we were able to get her help from social services to keep her in her own home.
We helped her with her creditors and agreed a minimal sum with them which has helped and she was doing really well until she fell and broke her hip. Following surgery, she was put into a nursing home to recover and was sat in a wheel chair 10 hours a day then in bed and she could not afford the nursing home fees nor was she getting the correct diet. Her renal consultant said she should not be in the home and he arranged the discharge and we obtained a grant for a hospital bed and she came home again.
It was a struggle but with support from us and home physiotherapy she is now up and about again and she says at 87 she is going to enjoy the rest of her life but could not do it without us. We supported her by both phone and home visits until the Corona Virus prevented the latter but as soon as circumstances allow, these will start again.
How Branches Can Help - Alicante Branch Helps Members And Beneficiaries During The Pandemic
The Branch's Efforts
Branches located all around the world have taken action to support Members and Beneficiaries who need help since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. One of these Branches is the Alicante Branch, in Spain District North led by Chairman Jack Kemp who was one of the recipients of the runners-up Community Response Award for Individual Impact in 2020, recognising his hard work in the course of this pandemic.
From the start of Covid-19, Jack, his wife Mary who is the Branch Community Support Representative as well as the rest of the Committee have sent letters to members and encouraged everyone to join as a telephone buddy volunteer. With an increased number of telephone buddies, they’ve made hundreds of phone calls to beneficiaries and members, ensuring they can help if needed.
Having members that are vulnerable and shielding, the Branch helped with delivering groceries and medication while following all the Covid-19 rules. When they identified that someone needed additional support, the BCS team including Jack would go above and beyond to assist as much as possible.
It was that level of commitment and continuous activity that enabled the Branch to recruit more members even within the current challenging environment.
‘Providing such support has paid huge dividends as during the pandemic we have recruited 102 new Members, and we are now the largest Branch within District North Spain. As the Chairman I’m convinced that this has been achieved by the hard work and dedication of my Branch Committee and Members.’ Jack said.
Ian and Vanessa's Story
One example of how Jack and Mary both District Caseworkers helped a family when needed the most, is that of Ian and Vanessa whose story was first published in the Spain District North online magazine After Vanessa was diagnosed with a serious illness she had to stop working, which led to the couple struggling financially. Also, the accommodation they were renting at the time required repairs, but the landlord refused to make the improvements necessary, something that impacted Vanessa’s wellbeing.
As Ian explained ‘I was put in touch with the RBL, which made an immediate positive impact on our lives. I received a phone call from Pamela, the Community Support Coordinator for Spain District North, who arranged for a District Caseworker to visit.
I then received a phone call from Jack Kemp the very same day and he arranged to visit us in Torrevieja the same weekend. Jack and Mary who are both Caseworkers arrived and immediately made myself and my partner feel at ease, they showed us complete empathy.
Opening up to a stranger was not easy, that said nothing was rushed and Jack completed the documentation while Mary and Vanessa looked around the rented accommodation to see the issues that were undoubtedly affecting Vanessa’s health and causing us stress.
Finding suitable accommodation for the couple was the priority for Jack so the team focused on that. With the help of the Legion, the couple managed to move to a temporary home in Spain before moving to Cardiff. As Ian mentioned, upon returning to the UK, they’ve received help from the South Wales Branch and Lauren Kennedy who helped with the purchase of white and brown goods for their new home, a bungalow that better suits their needs.
‘We cannot express in words our gratitude to all of the RBL team in Spain and indeed the UK for their fantastic work, which is carried out with such compassion and dignity to help veterans. We would urge everyone to support the Legion, your help and kind donations will allow this essential support to continue.’ Ian said.
Janet Becomes A Telephone Buddy
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Jack has also helped a number of other members including Janet whose husband David, a veteran who served with the Royal Engineers sadly passed away at the end of March as lockdowns were introduced worldwide. Janet herself was hospitalised after suffering a heart attack and was in need of surgery.
‘Janet was one of the members that I looked after as she is a High-Risk Member in terms of her health, so I had shopping, medications and post collected and delivered to her on a regular basis. She also got a panic alarm fitted with help from Pamela, Janet needed the panic alarm due to her ongoing health problems.’ Jack said.
With the restrictions already in place when David passed away, Jack and John were the only two Branch Members that were permitted to attend the funeral service, Jack arranged for the service to be recorded by John which was then sent back to family members in the UK who couldn’t travel to Spain.
Prior to David’s passing, Janet had bought an adjustable hospital bed to make David’s final months more comfortable while at home.
‘This is an essential item for someone who is terminally ill so Janet asked if the bed could be used by others, which was a very kind gesture. Moving such an item took some planning and manpower, a task that I gladly accepted knowing the relief this item would bring not only to another terminally ill member of the community but also his or her partner and carer. It was enormously pleasing to see first-hand the benefit such an item could bring to a family in need, but sad to say that the bed has been moved on five occasions during the Covid 19 pandemic. The bed has however generated considerable donations for TRBL Poppy Appeal.’ Jack explained.
Janet is now a Telephone Buddy for the Alicante Branch.
Working With Other Charities
Alongside the rest of the BCS Team we are also helping members who might not be beneficiaries and therefore not able to receive financial support from the Legion but the RBL can signpost them to other local organisations that can help. A recent case is that of two members Barry and Judith Thurston who needed help after Barry had his leg amputated and needed to install a stair lift in their home. The Team helped Barry and Judith with their application to the British Benevolent Association, an organisation helping British citizens in Spain, and now hope that they can receive the support needed.
‘The support of TRBL has improved our quality of life, the comradeship from Branch Members during the last 10 months has been fantastic. The assistance from Jack and Mary still continues today, a quick message and they are with us to sort any issues we have, both Mary and Jack have become very close friends.’ Judith said.
‘TRBL are the backbone of the community, nothing is too much trouble, the reason we joined TRBL was very simple, the support was and is first class. On my darkest day, before my leg was amputated I was in severe pain and needed to get to the doctors, even with the support from Judith I could not get up our outside stairs to the car, Judith text Jack who was on route to Alicante and explained, he immediately came back and assisted Barry to get up the stairs and to the doctors. I would encourage people to join TRBL’. Barry said.