If you have ever served in the armed forces you could benefit from accessing the services provided by Veterans UK. In his latest blog, Jon Parkin tells us about the organisation’s priorities for the forthcoming year and what they do to continually improve the service they provide to ensure that serving personnel and veterans can access the support they are entitled to.
We all know change is inevitable. As an organisation, we have seen much change, and been known by many different titles over the years including War Pensions Agency, Veterans Agency and after that the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency (SPVA) until becoming known as Veterans UK and part of Defence Business Services (DBS).
More recently there have been changes to the management arrangements in DBS, our parent organisation, but as customers I would be surprised if you noticed the difference. The organisation no longer has a private sector management team and Kathy Barnes, who many may remember was previously our Chief Executive when we were SPVA, has returned as the Chief Executive Officer for DBS and has brought some new people into the team. There has been a real strength for us in being a part of a larger organisation like DBS, and I can only see that continuing and building further.
With it being the start of the financial year much of our energy is currently channelled into our planning for the year ahead and much of that is underpinned by finances. We’ve undertaken a massive reorganisation in the past two years, which has enabled us to improve our services and reduce our running costs.
Claim processing times on the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme have reduced over the past three years to around 10 weeks and we are focussing on older cases, so we don’t allow them to get any older than they should. Since the scheme began 10 years ago, the number of claims rose significantly year on year, but we are now seeing it levelling out and this is helping us keep our productivity and performance at the same level.
Part of ensuring we are performing as well as we can is by comparing ourselves to others and we’ve had the annual results of international benchmarking on the Armed Forces Pension Scheme (AFPS) recently. We compare ourselves against a range of major pension providers across the world in terms of quality, cost and customer service.
By doing this we can work with similar organisations to understand how they do things and learn from each other by sharing best practice on ways of working. What these comparisons tell us is that we are very cost effective, in fact amongst the best in the world, and our service levels are improving. The results reflect the progress we have made in working with our customers to understand their needs, both now and going forward.
We are about to launch a campaign to try to find several thousand veterans who we were expecting to begin paying an Armed Forces Pension to, but who are no longer in contact with us. These are Servicemen and women who have left the Armed Forces but hadn’t reached their immediate pensionable age at the point of leaving service, and are entitled to a pension that is “deferred” until a time in the future when we would expect to start paying them.
In some cases these veterans don’t approach us and they have typically moved address and we have lost contact. There are organisations that specialise in tracing people and we are looking to work with one of these to help us pay them the pensions they are entitled to.
As always the work our Veterans Welfare Service staff do continues and there are a fair amount of initiatives going on in relation to specific groups of veterans. We are working hard to ensure that those veterans with mesothelioma receive the best standard of service that we can provide, and additional welfare resources are being provided to support veterans attending enquiries and tribunals. Ilford Park Polish Home is operating at very high levels of occupancy and we are working there in partnership with Blind Veterans UK, who many of you will remember as St Dunstans. Have a look at the blog about Ilford Park for insight into this special place.
If you are a service person or a veteran who has been become injured or ill as a result of service, or think you may be entitled to a pension from service you had some time ago, please go to the Veterans UK pages on GOV.UK for more information or call our Freephone Veterans UK Helpline on 0808 1914 2 18.