Poppy appeal has raised £1 every second since first world war

The UK’s poppy appeal has raised nearly £3bn in today’s money in the 100 years since the end of the first world war, the Guardian has established, making the yearly autumn fundraiser one of the most successful street donation campaigns in the country’s history.

People have given on average £1 every second for an inflation-adjusted amount of £2.89bn since the appeal fund was launched in 1921. Fundraisers say this armistice centenary year could bring in record donations of more than £50m. More than £1bn has been raised in the past 25 years alone, comparable to totals raised by Comic Relief and Children in Need respectively since their establishment in the 1980s.

The appeal remains controversial, however. The newsreader Jon Snow refused to wear a poppy on air in 2006, decrying what he called “poppy fascism”, and in 2016, Fifa banned the England team from wearing them in World Cup qualifiers.

This week, the Novara Media co-founder and Labour supporter Aaron Bastani called the poppy appeal “sickening”, saying “as a country, Britain spends £45m on poppies to feel good and help a worthy cause, while 13,000 ex-veterans are homeless”. Despite the charged debate, there has been the biggest spike in donations in the past decade since the end of the second world war.

The money raised has gone to veteran care homes, family respite and advisory services, among other causes.

More recently, with the realisation of the scale of mental health problems among military personnel following campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, attention is turning to mental health through the likes of Forward Assist, a Newcastle-based charity that helps with social integration of veterans. The proportion of personnel with a diagnosed mental health condition has almost doubled in the past decade.

Read the feature in the Guardian.

[This piece was published on 10/11/18]