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The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee

Throughout the country, people are counting down the days to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and extended weekend. Marking 60 years of The Queen’s reign; we’ve taken the opportunity to look back into our archives to follow the links with our monarch over 90 years of RBLI history.

Queen goes shopping (Pathe Footage)

Her Majesty was first made aware of RBLI and its activities in 1954 when she visited an exhibition at Lord Roberts Workshops which included a display of toys made by RBLI employees who had been injured in World War 2.    Following this, to mark our own 50th anniversary, she was treated to a tour of the Royal British Legion Village in Aylesford when she visited in December 1975.

During her 90 minute visit, Her Majesty received a tour of the poppy factory, the fancy goods warehouse, our nursing homes and the signs department, giving her the opportunity to see first hand the work undertaken on the Village.

She was joined by the Legion’s national Chairman, Mr Charles Busby CBE, former Chairman Lieutenant, Colonel Sir Gordon Larking of Loose, Admiral Sir Henry Moore of Wateringbury, the MP of  Tonbridge and Malling, Kent’s High Sheriff and the Council’s Chief Executive.

The Queen took time to chat to employees working on the village; taking a keen interest in all activities, many of which continue today. She was also given the opportunity to visit the Duchess of Kent Court flats where she met Mrs Taylor, a resident, who at that time had been living on the village for nearly 50 years.

Image courtesy of RBLV website

At the end of the visit Her Majesty the Queen unveiled a plague commemorating the village’s 50th Anniversary; which stands today as a reminder of the historic occasion.   Many of our activities continue to this day and our core vision to ‘provide quality care and support to members of the Armed Forces community and their dependents and to help disadvantaged men and women find meaningful and sustained employment’ remains as strong now as it was then.

In conjunction in with the Jubilee celebrations, RBLI have been raising funds to facilitate the furnishing of accommodation for LifeWorks course delegates via a Jubilee cake sale. To see photos of the spectacular Union Jack themed cakes, lovingly created by staff at RBLI, visit our Facebook photo album by clicking here.


It is with great sadness that we have to announce that RBLI’s Chairman, Edwin Boorman OBE passed away on 14th March 2012 after a short illness.

Edwin will be greatly missed by all at RBLI, the wider village community and throughout Kent where he has been a stalwart Ambassador for the county as well as a former Kent County President of The Royal British Legion and it was for this that Edwin was awarded an OBE in 2002.

Edwin served RBLI tirelessly for well over 40 years and had been Chairman since 2000.

Under his leadership and through the many changes that have occurred in the passing years, RBLI has kept up to date by providing the very best in care and support to ex-Service men and women as well as disabled and disadvantaged people, whatever their background.

Edwin had a heartfelt passion and vision for the future of the Village and spread the word far and wide about what he called “Kent’s best kept secret”.  He was instrumental in bringing many of the “good and great” to RBLI last July to launch the Charity’s 2016 strategy in order to help spread the word.

Edwin was enormously proud of all the achievements of RBLI including the provision of the highest quality care provided in Gavin Astor House and latterly in Queen Elizabeth Court, the assisted living scheme that opened in 2005.

Edwin was always very proud of RBLI and we were privileged to have such an inspirational Chairman whose legacy will live on.

Chris Simpkins Visit

We were delighted to welcome Chris Simpkins, Director General of The Royal British Legion to RBLI last week.   Chris visited a number of areas of the business and took the opportunity to talk to RBLI employees about the work they do. In addition, we discussed opportunities that we could explore for our organisations to build on our collaborative working initiatives.

The Director General visited our Social Enterprise to observe the team making a range of products, including signs, pallets and toy model construction.  He was impressed by the significant changes since his last visit and was interested to hear about the recent monster truck build and, in particular, the size, scale and scope of this project.   
The Director General went on to meet the team delivering our LifeWorks programme and took the opportunity to talk to some of the soldiers undertaking the programme of assessment and employability related support.   Many of these are currently in the process of transitioning out of the Armed Forces due to injury.   

The visit concluded with a tour of the RBLI village site and an opportunity to talk to the Healthcare and Welfare teams about the integrated approach to delivering services such as healthcare, housing welfare and employment opportunities to our wider group of Armed Forces beneficiaries.   The team discussed the broad range of age groups, healthcare and welfare needs of individuals referred to RBLI and the very personalised approach that is taken.    The team provided a number of case study illustrations to our integrated services which enable individuals to develop at their own pace and to their maximum potential, fully embracing the RBLI philosophy of equipping our beneficiaries for independence through employment where possible and supporting them to prolong that independence.
Jane Waring spoke with Chris about the Health and Wellbeing programme that she is delivering to the Armed Forces Community.  Chris recommended that the RBL’s Education team should speak with Jane in order to share experiences and good practice.
Looking forward …

RBLI continues to work closely with The Royal British Legion, The Poppy Factory and Poppy Scotland as part of the Poppy Family.   We are looking forward to developing even more joint working initiatives with the Poppy Group in order to better serve the needs of the Armed Forces Community.  The strategic objectives of our organisations are clearly aligned and together we can make a real difference.

National Apprenticeship Week:

RBLI starts National Apprenticeship Week by welcoming a further apprentice to our team and monitoring next steps for another.  Callum Orpin joins our Property Services Team this week.    One of the apprentices working in our Healthcare Team having recently completed her apprenticeship with RBLI  has just commenced full time nursing training as a result. 

For RBLI, having apprentices in our business continues to be a valuable and rewarding experience, providing a number of business benefits.   We are confident our apprentices gain a wide range of benefits in return. 

“The apprenticeship has proven to be extremely diverse, and I have been given the opportunity to undertake a variety of different roles and responsibilities each providing me with masses of knowledge, experience and skills that are invaluable.” Nicole Freiter, RBLI Marketing Apprentice.

Nicole Freiter, currently serving an apprenticeship with our Marketing Team, is testament to that and you can read her story at For more information about apprenticeships visit

2011 in numbers…

When reviewing RBLI’s achievements in 2011 my eye was quickly drawn towards a series of numbers:

  • We have enabled 350 people to find employment through the Work Programme and have started assisting 4700 individuals who are long term unemployed.
  • We have given 5224 members of the Armed Forces community, employment and training information, advice and guidance through the Civvy Street programme.

  • LifeWorks, our new vocational assessment service, has worked with 45 wounded, injured and sick ex Service personnel.
  •  65 members of the Armed Forces have attended the Army Recovery Courses (ARC) on our site in Aylesford, Kent.

  • We have supported 3 young ex-Gurkhas, one of whom has recently started employment in our Signs Department, by providing accommodation in our village.
  •  We are proud to have a workforce consisting of 88 employees with disabilities.
  • 300,000 pieces K’NEX (construction toy), have been assembled by our specialist team for a range of global displays (see our monster truck).

  • 237,000 new pallets have been built by our Pallet Department. 510,000 other pallets have been inspected, maintained and returned to the system.
  • Our village hosts 50 people in our high dependency care home, 38 in our assisted living home and a further 137 in our houses.
  • 3 new apprentices have joined our team. We hope that this number will grow in 2012.
  •  With a combined age of 153, 3 members of our Senior Management Team, successfully completed the Maidstone Half Marathon and the hope is that the number of RBLI runners will increase in 2012 thereby reducing the average age of participants!

  •  54 local children with special needs and their carers attended a Christmas Party as part of our own charitable contribution to our community.
  •  504 people ‘follow’ @RBLI on Twitter.
  •  RBLI videos have been watched 1,047 time on YouTube.

A total of 300 RBLI staff made all of the above numbers happen. Of course, the numbers merely give some idea of scale of effort. What is less easy to describe is the dedication, passion and commitment that is required to deliver such high quality services that I see as I visit all of our activities. I do hope that our blog and social medias will, through articles and photographs, better illustrate the work of RBLI and all our staff.

From all at RBLI, I wish you a very happy 2012.

New Partnership Project:

Next week we begin delivery of an exciting new pilot programme.  Working in partnership with Russet Homes, we will deliver an assessment and preparation for employment course to 10 residents from a local housing estate.  The project will run for 6 weeks and attendees will benefit from a range of employment related modules such as CV preparation and interview technique.   When they have finished the programme, we hope that attendees will have opportunities to take up work placements with RBLI,  Russet Homes or other local businesses.   We are pleased to be working with Russet Homes to deliver this innovative project, which we hope will be the start of a long and successful partnership.     The aim is to roll out the project to a wider group of residents and work with Russet Homes to support a range of employment initiatives that they are introducing to help residents get back to work.

We are pleased to be working with Russet Homes to deliver this innovative project, which we hope will be the start of a long and successful partnership.

This project is one of a range of partnership projects that RBLI will be developing and delivering over the coming months.   Look out for more details on each of these as they progress.

And finally…

We also look forward to continuing working in partnership with TRBL as they progress work on their employability strategy.    This is a real opportunity for a group of ex Service charities who already work closely both with TRBL and each other informally to take a more strategic approach to working in partnership for the benefit of our mutual beneficiaries.  The organisations involved are the Poppy Factory, Poppy Scotland, RFEA and the Officers’ Association and the aim is to develop and deliver an employability support model which will provide better access to information, advice and guidance through a ‘one stop shop’ approach.

Launching ‘VICTOR’

Continuing the theme of working in partnership, which will be a key focus of our work through 2012, we are also pleased to be working with the charity, Blue Sky to deliver ‘VICTOR’ – a project aimed to provide support to ex Service ex offenders.   

This project will provide employment support to move individuals into sustainable employment and reduce the risk of re-offending.    Customers will be given support with CV writing, developing job search skills, interview techniques whilst undertaking temporary employment and training in grounds maintenance work.  The first project launches in April with Medway Council who will contract out grounds maintenance work to the Victor team.   We look forward to further such initiatives being developed with other Organisations over the coming months.

Looking Forward…

Future Horizons:
This week sees the launch of the Future Horizons Programme.   This important initiative, which will run for the next 12 months, will help around 600 early service leavers transition out of the Army and back into civilian life.   The programme will be delivered by a partnership of ex Service charities and private organisations that have pooled their expertise and experience to develop it.
Early service leavers are individuals who, for a range of reasons. complete less than 4 years of their Armed Forces career.  They are therefore not entitled to the full suite of transitional support available.   Often their career with the Armed Forces is cut short unexpectedly and they find themselves experiencing real problems with transition, resulting in increased vulnerability to issues such as crime and alcohol abuse.  The initial pilot project will be delivered from the Army base in Catterick, engaging early service leavers before they leave to help them better adjust during transition.  RBLI is one of a number of organisations partnering up to deliver Future Horizons and was instrumental in developing the assessment tool that will be used to identify support requirements on leaving.  We will also deliver support to those who choose to settle in the South East of England with  RBLI Advisers providing pre employment advice and linking individuals with mainstream programmes such as Work Programme.

“The initial pilot project will be delivered from the Army base in Catterick, engaging early service leavers before they leave to help them better adjust during transition”

The Future Horizons Programme will be funded by the Forces in Mind Trust.   The launch of the Trust was announced this week at the premiere of ‘War Horse’, the new Steven Spielberg film.  The Foundation of Prince William and Prince Harry has pledged partnership support and will back Trust funded projects with its own grants.
RBLI is proud to be a partner in this important initiative which will demonstrate how ex Service charities and private organisations can effectively use their combined expertise to provide an holistic approach to supporting Armed Force personnel.

Christmas comes early at RBLI

A Christmas party for children with disabilities was held this week in memory of David Rowlands, MBE a former director of RBLI. The children enjoyed party food, face painting, an entertainment show and meeting Santa and his reindeers.

Special thanks to everyone involved at M4S, for their help inviting the families involved and much appreciated help on the day.

It was a fabulous day and a great finish to 2011.