Coronavirus: Royal Navy families could face 'whirlwind' of financial woes for 'months or years' charity boss warns

NAVAL families face a ‘whirlwind’ of cash woes and relationship struggles as they deal with the fallout of the coronavirus outbreak, a military charity boss has warned.

Tuesday, 14th April 2020, 9:47 am
Updated Tuesday, 14th April 2020, 9:48 am
Adrian Bell, chief executive for the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity. Picture: Sarah Standing (210119-6604)

Adrian Bell, chief executive of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity (RNRMC), feared sailors could be in store for ‘months or years’ of hardship as a result of the pandemic gripping the globe.

And the former naval officer warned a dramatic slump in cash donations to charities critical to supporting military families could deepen the crisis, creating a perfect storm of financial misery for Senior Service heroes past and present.

It comes as Britain’s paymaster general, Penny Mordaunt, warned the coronavirus fallout would ‘hit the economy hard’.

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Sailors from HMS Lancaster return home to Portsmouth following a deployment. Photo: Royal Navy.

Speaking exclusively to The News, Mr Bell said: ‘We will see that whirlwind rip through that community of naval families over the coming months and years.’

Mr Bell said he had now ‘ripped up’ the ‘rulebook’ on finances at the Portsmouth-based charity to ensure a £500,000 ‘hardship fund’ was available to support naval families in need.

He insisted the move was to make sure the charity could ‘react quickly to what is going on in the crisis and beyond’.

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Labour's shadow armed forces minister, Stephen Morgan. Picture: Habibur Rahman

He added: ‘We’re going to see much more about the economic effect, with these people who now have holes in their salary.

‘A lot of people have taken pay cuts. It doesn’t need a big hole to open up in their monthly take-home (pay) for people to begin to really suffer.

‘Hopefully many of these people will still be in work but we also think that many won’t.’

Mr Bell warned many of the families who would be hit hardest by the fallout of the pandemic would turn to charities – who were themselves facing their own battle for survival.

Penny Mordaunt, the government's paymaster general and Portsmouth North's MP

He added: ‘This has hit incomes. We have reserves. We have this for a purpose. It’s called a rainy day and by God it is pouring out there.’

Former defence secretary, Penny Mordaunt warned the coronavirus crisis would have a massive impact on the economy.

The Portsmouth North MP told The News: ‘Be in no doubt this will hit the economy hard. We need to be thinking now about the recovery.

‘It will affect everyone, and some will be hit very hard indeed. To get through it, and rebuild, all sectors will need to work together like never before.

A sailors is greeted by his family as he returns to Portsmouth on HMS Cattistock after 10 weeks away on a NATO deployment.

‘The armed forces are doing an amazing job helping the response we but also carrying out all the other tasks we ask of defence.

‘Their families will be under strain and they must have all the support we can give.’

The Royal Navy said it was 'communicating' with families to support them during the health crisis.

A spokeswoman added: ‘We understand the pressures that naval service families are currently facing, which is why we have stepped up the emotional and financial support we offer.

‘This includes offering short-term emergency loans and providing guidance on looking after children and staying in touch.’

Since 2007, the RNMC, in partnership with Greenwich Hospital, has distributed almost £30m in grants to more than 30 front line charities, including relationship counselling organisation Relate, military causes like SSAFA and Combat Stress, and Portsmouth-based Veterans Outreach Support among others.

The grants were used directly to support sailors and Marines, both serving and veteran, full-time and reservist, as well as their families.

On Wednesday, chancellor Rishi Sunak announced an extra £750m bailout fund for frontline charities.

Labour’s newly-appointed shadow armed forces minister, Stephen Morgan welcomed the move but said it ‘fell far short’ of what was needed.

The Portsmouth South MP added: ‘As a result of the coronavirus and economic crisis we know that many charities are the brink with some facing imminent closure and the sector estimated to lose £4bn in funding.

‘That’s why I’ve been calling on the government for some time to provide charities based in our city additional financial support to secure their future.

‘This week’s announcement by the chancellor is welcome but falls far short in filling the financial black hole many organisations are facing.’

Mr Bell added the RNRMC had ensured funding packages for its partner organisations had been secured to help them through the ‘next three years’.

To support the RNRMC, see rnrmc.org.uk

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