A statement by the Board of Trustees of Bennet House in Portrush, have confirmed the process to sell the property is to begin.
Bennet House has provided a place for ex-servicemen to rest over the years, but a decision in January of this year was made to close the facility.
In a statement made to its members, the RBL Board of Trustees for the centre wrote:
“Following confirmation in January by The Royal British Legion’s Board of Trustees that the charity would cease to operate its four break centres the Legion has begun the sales process for the properties.
“The decision to close the break centres was part of a continuing strategy to ensure the charity uses funds in the most effective way to have the greatest impact for those in our Armed Forces community who are most in need.
“A rigorous process will be undertaken to ensure the charity receives the best value possible for the properties in accordance with our obligations under the Charities Act.”
Explaining the decision to delay the closure at the time, the Trustees went on to say:
“At the time of the announcement in January, the Board of Trustees made the decision to allow Bennet House in Portrush to be temporarily utilised until July 2020 by the charity’s Poppy Club, local community and other charities whilst the Legion established a Northern Ireland Advisory Group to review how best to meet beneficiary needs in the area.
“Bennet House has not been used during this period due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent social distancing measures.
“Now this period has ended and the Board of Trustees have reviewed the decision to postpone the sale of Bennet House, taking into consideration the significant changes brought about by COVID-19, the ongoing monthly costs and the strategic plans for the Legion, and have decided to proceed with the sale of Bennet House, concluding that retaining a residential facility does not represent best use of Legion resources nor does it fit with the future strategic plans.
“Membership and draft terms of reference have been established for the Northern Ireland Advisory Group but the Group is yet to meet, again delayed by the pandemic.
“The Advisory Group, made up of Legion members, staff and key external stakeholders, will re-assess the Legion’s service provision for the Armed Forces community in Northern Ireland, partly informed by a new report from Queen’s University Belfast that will provide insight into the health and wellbeing of veterans living in Northern Ireland. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the report from Queen’s University has been delayed until Autumn and, therefore, the Advisory Group has withheld from completing its review and developing proposals until the findings from the report can be evaluated and considered as part of that work.”
The statement ended with the board of trustees for the RBL priorities going forward, stating:
“Providing effective support to the Armed Forces community has always been and will remain the Legion’s number one priority. Our aim is to make the right choices for the future sustainability of the charity and support the most vulnerable in our community. It is our responsibility to ensure that we are making the most of our resources, and providing the right services that will have the biggest impact for people.
“Throughout our history, the Legion has responded to changes in its community and the landscape the charity operates within. The changes confirmed in January will enable us to refocus resource to be as effective as possible and to use the funds we have to answer the most urgent calls for help from those within the Armed Forces community who are facing the toughest challenges.”