Royal British Legion appoints former RAF officer to head up area team

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A former Royal Air Force logistics officer has been appointed as the new area manager for The Royal British Legion team in the South East Midlands, which includes Bedfordshire.

Mark Collins worked in hospitality before joining the RAFT as a commissioned catering officer at Brize Norton in 1990. As the Legion’s South East Midlands Area Manager, Mark’s role will oversee the delivery of welfare support services – ranging from benefits and money advice to providing immediate needs grants – in Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Northamptonshire and Oxfordshire.

In the last year, the South East Midlands team has provided welfare support to approximately 1,000 members of the Armed Forces community in the region. In Bedfordshire, the team dealt with over 300 cases of support, with some of most common beneficiary needs including the provision of mobility or electrically powered vehicles, assistance with debt and housing deposits.

Mark said: “As the nation’s leading Armed Forces charity, The Royal British Legion has been helping Service people past and present for over 90 years. We provide £1.6 million every week in direct welfare support – that’s over £83 million each year – and respond to over 170,000 calls annually for practical help, advice and support.

“The local team is dedicated to providing a wide range of flexible support services, from helping a young widow through an inquest to ensuring that an older veteran can stay independent in their own home. Last year, we assisted over 1,000 members of the Armed Forces Community in the South East Midlands alone, a figure which is likely to increase as the demand for our services continues to rise.

“We value the enthusiasm and commitment of our local members, who undertake a wide range of volunteer roles and fundraising activities for the Legion, and encourage anyone who is interested to get involved.”

Mark joins the organisation at an exciting time of innovation and progress, with the Legion recognising and responding to the ever changing demands being placed upon the Armed Forces community.

The Legion has recently launched three new ways to reach out to Service personnel, veterans and their families to help provide them with the advice and support they need at any stage of their lives –

Online, via an improved digital information base, interactive assistance and webchat accessible from the Legion’s website.

By phone or email via a new dedicated Contact Centre with trained advisers, which is open from 8am to 8pm, 7 days a week. Calls to this number - 0808 802 8080 - are free from all landlines and most mobile networks.

Face to face, through 16 new ‘Pop in” Advice and Information Centres to be opened on high streets in major towns and cities across the UK in the coming year. The Legion is also introducing new community outreach in areas where there is a need for its services.

The first “Pop-In” Centre was officially opened in the heart of Liverpool in December 2013, with the South East Midlands office scheduled to open later in 2014.

Work is currently in progress to identify a suitable property in Aylesbury town centre that will offer a welcoming space for members of the Armed Forces community to come for practical help and advice, and for members of the public to find out how they can support the charity by fundraising, volunteering or becoming a member.

A number of outreach locations are currently in operation in Oxford, Milton Keynes and Northampton with more planned in Witney, Wallingford, Banbury and across the area in the coming months.