Royal British Legion is set to lose out on millions of pounds in Poppy Appeal donations due to covid


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)

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)

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 covid restrictions will affect local Remembrance Sunday activities

Guidelines have been published on how local Remembrance Sunday activities can take place, ahead of tough new coronavirus restrictions for England.

Only limited communal singing is permitted, events should be held outside to reduce transmission and attendees must be socially distanced at all times, according to the Government guidance.

It sets out preparations for local authorities, with England due to go into a second national lockdown from Thursday.

Local authorities, faith leaders and members of the Royal British Legion are permitted to organise outdoor events to safely mark November 8 at a public war memorial or cenotaph.

But Remembrance events should be short and focussed on wreath-laying, while a march past or parade can take place if attendees are socially distanced.

Those legally permitted to attend events as participants include those attending as part of their work, such as local councillors and faith leaders, members of the armed forces and veterans.

While people are legally permitted to stop and watch as spectators, reasonable steps should be taken to ‘minimise wider public viewing’, according to the guidance.

Members of the public are only permitted to attend the event with their own household or support bubble, or individually with one other person from outside their household.

Guidance states that limited communal singing – involving the national anthem and one additional song – is permitted outside, providing additional mitigations are put in place.

These include songs being a few minutes or less, keeping two metres between attendees and regular cleaning of surrounding surfaces that are touched.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman confirmed on Monday that a national ceremony at the Cenotaph in London will take place.

The spokesman said: ‘We are certainly not cancelling Remembrance Sunday events but we must be mindful of the risks such events pose, especially to veterans who are often elderly.’

The national ceremony at the Cenotaph is usually attended by senior politicians and members of the royal family, along with around 10,000 veterans and members of the public.

This year’s event will be on a much smaller scale and ministers had already urged people to stay away from the Cenotaph and watch the service at home on TV.

Regional councils in England have also adjusted their plans for this year’s commemorations, with the majority encouraging people to observe the traditional two-minute silence from home.

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