Update from Craig Jones MBE (Executive Chair) and Caroline Paige (Chief Executive)

Welcome to our August update, we hope you have managed to find some summer sun and have enjoyed a relaxing August. Although our campaign work might seem to have gone quiet, please rest assured we have been working hard on the next steps in the delivery of reparations and support and look forward to updating this at our next Town Hall. Our original July Town Hall, updating on reparations, unfortunately, suffered from IT capacity gremlins and we apologise to anyone not able to join us for the event on 24th July, we ran a second event on 31st July and hope you were able to join us then. We were delighted to see 236 of you over both events, not including repeat joins. See below for details on our September Town Hall that will focus on our reparations survey, more on which shortly.

Our VCWs have also been busy and you can read some of their accounts in the regional updates below, but they have also been responding to a steady increase in requests for information, advice or support from LGBT+ Veterans and families who have recently become aware of Lord Etherton’s Final Report and recommendations. To support that increase we have undertaken some internal restructuring and are looking forward to welcoming some new team members in the coming weeks. Our advertisement for short-term VCWs in the South West and North West of England closed on 21st August, and we will soon be calling candidates forward to interview.

We have also enjoyed meeting many of you at a variety of Prides, though sadly Brighton was impacted by the train cancellations and Newcastle was rained out, we still enjoyed several other Prides and you can also read about some of those in our regional sections below. Our final marching Pride of the year is in Manchester on Saturday 26th August, and it’s not too late to put your name forward if you’d like to join us for that, we’ll be joining up with RBL and are looking forward to seeing as many familiar faces as we hope to see new ones.

Yesterday, we launched a short survey for LGBT+ Veterans, or representatives of, asking for thoughts and comments on some of the non-financial reparations included in Lord Etherton’s Final Report. Details are included later in this newsletter, but please do take the time to complete this survey. It is your opportunity once more to help influence the outcomes of those reparations to ensure they are meaningful and appropriate. We will incorporate any questions on financial reparations at a later date when there is enough development to ensure clarity and fact.

Over time we have developed in many ways as a charity, as we have grown and got to know you, as we have learned, not just from those we support, but from our team, our partners, other organisations we work with, and importantly our funders too. And we aren’t alone in this, information gathering is a realisation of understanding that has become a bigger focus for many charity and support organisations in recent times, for many different reasons, generally driving a genuine desire to provide the best possible service. Even the 2021 National Census finally included questions for the first time on military service status, sexual orientation and gender identity, intended to help identify population statistics that will enable better understanding, outreach and service provision in so many different ways.

At the beginning of our work when someone got in touch with FWP, we didn’t ask all the questions that we know now we should have eg geographical location, age group, service etc. Questions help us to understand who we are reaching, and importantly who we aren’t. Answers given, helped us build a better picture of an isolated diverse community and its needs, that no one had noticed previously. They have collectively empowered awareness, understanding and action, which inspired research to further evidence individual and community needs and necessary outcomes. That drove our campaign, that led to the Independent Review and the Call for Evidence, that led to the 49 different reparations recommended in Lord Etherton’s Final Report. We focus our questions better now to feed more complex tasks, but for all those who joined us before we did, we hope to step back soon and invite you to complete missing details to help build an even better picture.

To help us in this, we are now in a better place to develop our ‘Customer Relationship Management’ (CRM) measures, to use information to manage, organise and track all contacts to FWP and follow-up on connections etc, so that no-one gets missed on a busy day, so that we know who to reach out to for specific activities, for instance relaying details for a future event for LGBT+ RN veterans only, or for female veterans only, or a call out for volunteers to participate in service or region-specific activities or media, so that we can organise events more efficiently too, reducing costs so that we get more out of little, helping ensure the widest possible inclusion at community events. Our new approach will soon be reflected in a fresh new layout for our Contact Us Form.  The better information management we have the better we can signpost something of importance or of interest to you, as an individual or a group. There is naturally a limit to the information we can, need or want to hold, and how. GDPR of course is a factor, but also, it’s a balance of asking just enough of the right questions of you, to deliver the best possible relationship and results. Surveys and Questionnaires are of course an important part of this.

We do live in a survey top heavy world, but your participation means the difference between us telling people what we think you need, and you empowering us with compelling details to illustrate exactly what you need and why. So please continue doing what you have been doing so incredibly well, our work is far from done and we need your support to keep knocking on the doors, with the best information, the right questions, and the right asks, to get the right answers. Together we can do this.

We hope you enjoy reading this newsletter and we look forward to seeing you at any remaining Pride events or on our next Town Hall Zoom.

You can read the full August Newsletter here

Best Wishes

Craig and Caroline

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