The Royal British Legion fears millions of pounds in Poppy Appeal donations could be lost across the UK because volunteers cannot do face-to-face collections due to the Covid pandemic.
Charles Byrne, director-general of the charity, said lockdown restrictions mean that for the first time in the organisation’s 99-year history, in-person fundraising has been cancelled on the streets.
The move came into effect yesterday – the first day of the new corona rules – but poppies remain available at some supermarkets and donations can be made online.
Many poppy sellers for the Royal British Legion, which raises more than £50million a year during the three-week period of the appeal (Oct 22-Nov 11), are elderly, and the charity is keen to ensure they are protected from the virus.
Mr Byrne said: ‘This will be the first time in the history of the Poppy Appeal that our volunteers will be unable to carry out face-to-face collections anywhere across the UK.
‘The loss of that activity could run into millions of pounds in fundraising which means online donations are crucial, and so we’re asking people to support the Poppy Appeal by donating via the Legion’s website.
The Royal British Legion fears millions of pounds in Poppy Appeal donations could be lost across the UK because volunteers – many of whom are elderly – cannot do face-to-face collections due to the Covid pandemic. (Pictured, a poppy seller in London last Thursday)
Charles Byrne, director-general of the charity, said lockdown restrictions mean that for the first time in the organisation’s 99-year history, in-person fundraising has been cancelled on the streets. (Above, members of the Armed services at Waterloo Station in London last week)
‘Every poppy counts so whether you choose to print off a downloadable poppy from the Legion’s website or draw your own, we are calling on everyone across the nations to unite in a UK-wide show of support from home, display a poppy in their window in time for Remembrance Sunday and pay tribute to our Armed Forces community.’
The collectors are a regular site on British high streets, gathering money up to November 11 every year.
To encourage fundraising, the Legion has boosted its online and text message donation schemes, while some supermarkets have donation points at tills.
A message on the Legion’s website reads: ‘Due to Covid-19, many of our volunteers are unable to help at this year’s Poppy Appeal.
How you can get poppies
For those who can leave their homes, poppies are available at major supermarkets including Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Morrisons, Aldi and Asda, with Sainsbury’s and Morrisons also offering an option to donate at the till.
Larger Post Offices will also have poppies available.
The Royal British Legion’s annual Poppy Appeal takes place from October 22 until Armistice Day on November 11.
Approximately £50m is raised each year during the fundraising period and is used to provide life-long support to serving and ex-serving members of the British Armed Forces, their families and dependants through hardships, injuries and bereavements.
‘We need your help to distribute poppies to your friends and neighbours and ensure we can continue to support our Armed Forces community.’
The Legion is asking the public to play their part from home and participate in remote acts of Remembrance including standing on their doorstep during the Two Minute Silence, displaying a poppy in their window, and watching the Festival of Remembrance and service at the Cenotaph on BBC One.
The charity has also cancelled this year’s regional City Poppy Days that were scheduled to take place in Cardiff, Bristol, Leeds, Birmingham and Manchester – in order to safeguard staff, volunteers and members of the public during the pandemic.
There will also be a scaled-back service at the Cenotaph in Whitehall, London, this Sunday.
Last year, more than 30% of the charity’s income came from the Poppy Appeal.
The legion provides about a third of the charitable spend on the Armed Forces community, including offering injury and bereavement support.
Collector numbers were already down 25 per cent on the usual 40,000 because many volunteers fall into the vulnerable category.
In Scotland, the public have been told mark Remembrance Day at home, as march and wreath-laying ceremonies are not permitted due to Covid restrictions.
And in Wales a 17-day lockdown, due to end next Monday, has prevented face-to-face fundraising.
The collectors are a regular site on British high streets, gathering money up to November 11 every year. To encourage fundraising, the Legion has boosted its online and text message donation schemes, while some supermarkets have donation points at tills. (Above, at Liverpool St station in London last week)
Meanwhile, Northern Ireland’s Veterans Commissioner has urged the public to continue donating to military charities as the sector suffers under the pandemic.
Veterans Commissioner Danny Kinahan has urged the public to remember military charities in Northern Ireland.
‘This Remembrance Week, I want you all to not only remember those who have died so we can enjoy our lives but all our service men, but also to think of all the charities that look after our veterans,’ he said.
‘It is those very charities that make their lives possible and meet their needs.
‘And all those charities are struggling for funding, so please this Remembrance Week, look at how well you can fund those charities and please give generously.’
How does England’s winter lockdown affect Remembrance Sunday services and churchgoers?
Under England’s latest lockdown, which came into force on Thursday, places of worship will close unless they are being used for funerals, individual prayer, formal childcare or other essential voluntary and public services such as support groups.
Exemptions will also be made for churches that are broadcasting acts of worship.
This means Remembrance Sunday services, which are traditionally part of communal worship, cannot go ahead as planned on November 8.
However, rather than being banned entirely the Government has set out a series of guidelines for local authorities and faith leaders hoping to hold the services.
According to the Government: ‘Local authorities in England and faith leaders can organise outdoor Remembrance Sunday events at a public war memorial or cenotaph, if you complete a Covid-19 risk assessment and take all reasonable measures to limit the risk of transmission of the virus.
‘Where necessary, you should engage with neighbouring businesses, transport operators and local transport authorities to assess any risks to the local area of increased visitors from other locations and apply additional mitigations if needed. ‘
These services should be ‘adjusted to ensure the event is as safe as possible.’
- Be outdoors, as transmission risks are significantly reduced;
- Be short and focused on wreath laying, with a reduced march past or parade only if social distancing can be maintained;
- Take advantage of opportunities for wreath layers to represent wider groups
- Any small, military bands should observe social distancing. Buglers can perform outdoors at Remembrance Sunday events;
- Keep numbers to a minimum, focusing attendance on those wishing to lay wreaths;
- Take reasonable steps to minimise wider public viewing. The public can only attend the event with their own household or those in their support bubble, or individually with one other person from outside their household;
- Observe social distancing at all times.
According to the guidance, attendees should be ‘kept to a minimum’ and should only include:
- People attending as part of their work (such as local councillors, local faith leaders, the local MP)
- People attending in a voluntary capacity on behalf of a recognised organisation
- Members of the armed forces
- Veterans of the armed forces, and/or their representatives or carers
Members of the public are permitted to watch the event but should be discouraged from attending.