Over 130 years we have shown our commitment to ensuring that our service men and women, veterans and their families get the best possible support when they need it.
Major Gildea founds the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association
When the Second Expeditionary Force set sail for Egypt in February 1885, Major (later Colonel Sir) James Gildea wrote a letter to The Times appealing for money and volunteers to help the military families left behind at home.
A fund was set up to provide allowances. Soon Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales (the future Queen Alexandra) became the first president of what was then called the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association (SSFA).
SSFA sets up a nursing branch for serving families
Our nursing branch provided community nurses - later known as Alexandra Nurses - to look after the families of serving men in their own homes in the UK and abroad. We still provide some health services for our serving Forces today.
Read more about the Alexandra Nurses here.
The Royal Homes for Officers’ Widows and Daughters opens
Our first housing service in 1900, was the rent of twelve suites of rooms in Elm Park Mansions to accommodate officers' widows and unmarried daughters. Shortly afterwards Broghill House in Wimbledon, southwest London, was purchased. The existing building was demolished and the Royal Homes for Officers’ Widows and Unmarried Daughters built on the site. It was opened by King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra in July 1905.
Supporting families on the Home Front
At the outbreak of the First World War, the Government called on us to take care of the families of soldiers going to the Front. After five months, SSFA had paid out more than £1m from the National Relief Fund that we administered and we had 50,000 voluntary workers.
SSFA becomes the Soldiers', Sailors' & Airmen's Families Association (SSAFA)
Following the founding of the Royal Air Force in 1918, our president Queen Alexandra suggested the organisation should change its name to the Soldiers', Sailors' & Airmen's Families Association (SSAFA).
Our first Royal Charter
SSAFA was granted a Royal Charter of Incorporation in January 1926. Following a review of governance, a new revised Royal Charter & Rules came into effect in January 2014.
Demand for help rises during hard times
Calls on SSAFA for help grew steadily in the 1930s due to the financial depression. We helped 25,203 families in 1931, compared with 18,368 families the previous year.
We continue to provide advice and support to families facing financial hardship today.
Support for service men during the Second World War
In May 1941, SSAFA opened a special office - the SSAFA Overseas Department - to deal with enquiries from serving men about the safety of their families back home. Soon afterwards the first of many overseas bureaux, where men could discuss family problems or make enquiries about relatives, opened in Cairo in September 1941.
SSAFA assists Prisoners of War returning from Korea
At the request of the War Office, SSAFA sent a volunteer to meet British prisoners at the end of the Korean War to find out how we could help.
There for families during the Falklands conflict
SSAFA provided support to the families of service men injured or killed in the Falklands. Our social workers accompanied the 541 bereaved relatives who travelled to the Falkland Islands the following year.
HRH Prince Michael of Kent becomes SSAFA president
Prince Michael of Kent became our fourth president. He remains in the role.
Working with Ministry of Defence to provide health and social care services
The Ministry of Defence contracted SSAFA and Guy’s & St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust to provide health and social care services to the military community in British Forces Germany and the European Support Group. Our professional staff ensure that families have access to hospital services similar to the care available on the NHS.
SSAFA merged with the Forces Help Society and Lord Roberts Workshops
The official merger with Forces Help Society and Lord Roberts Workshops took place on 1 January 1997. Although SSAFA had already made a formal agreement in 1988 and many of our volunteers, including some Council members, had been been active in both organisations.
SSAFA Norton House opens for families of injured service personnel
In this year, we responded to a campaign by Sue Norton and her husband, Captain Peter Norton, who was injured while serving in Iraq to provide a free ‘home away from home’ for relatives visiting injured service men and women.
Within months we had raised enough money to build and open a six-bedroom home in Surrey near the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre at Headley Court. A second SSAFA Norton House opened in Selly Oak, Birmingham, in 2009 near the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine.
The Queen opens our new headquarters
Her Majesty The Queen, SSAFA’s patron for 60 years, formally opened our new central office at Queen Elizabeth House in London in November 2013.
SSAFA - the Armed Forces charity, formerly known as Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association, is a UKcharity that provides lifelong support to serving men and women and veterans from the British Armed Forces and their families or dependents. Anyone who is currently serving or has ever served in the Royal Navy, British Army or Royal Air Force and their families, both regulars and reserves, is eligible for their help.
SSAFA’s professional staff and network of 7,000 volunteers assist more than 90,000 people every year, from World War Two veterans to the families of young servicemen and women wounded or killed in Afghanistan. 
Founded in 1885, SSAFA is the UK's oldest national Armed Forces charity.
SSAFA offers help and support to all serving and former members of all ranks of the Armed Forces, including:
- Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Army and Royal Air Force
- Volunteer Reserve Forces, including Royal Navy Reserves, Royal Marine Reserves, Army Reserves and Royal Air Force Reserves
- Nursing services.
The following people are also eligible for SSAFA’s support:
- Wives and former wives
- Husbands and former husbands
- Widows and widowers
- Civil partners and former civil partners
- Partners who are, or were, in an established relationship with a Beneficiary
- Children who are dependent on a beneficiary
- Those who provide, or provided, care for a beneficiary.
Welfare advice and support
SSAFA offer welfare advice and support for serving personnel, veterans and their families through a worldwide network of volunteers. Branches in local communities provide help for veterans and their families and committees on military bases help serving families.
For currently serving personnel and their families
Support in service communities
SSAFA has a network of volunteers on Army, RAF and Naval bases in the UK and around the world who give local support.
Housing for wounded, injured and sick serving personnel and their families
SSAFA Norton Homes in Selly Oak, Birmingham, and Headley Court, Surrey provide home-from-home accommodation for families visiting wounded injured or sick service or ex-service personnel and outpatients. SSAFA also provides day-to-day management of Fisher House UK at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham (QEHB).
Mentoring for injured, wounded or sick service leavers
SSAFA’s mentoring scheme was set up in 2011 and supports those transitioning out of the Army or RAF due to medical discharge. SSAFA’s volunteer mentors provide support to wounded, injured and sick service leavers through a long-term 'one-to-one' relationship that underpins the transition from the military. SSAFA Mentoring is nationally accredited by the Mentoring and Befriending Foundation.
Adoption for military families
SSAFA is a registered adoption agency dedicated to helping military families through the adoption process.
Additional needs and disabilities support
SSAFA provide specialised support to military families with additional needs including their Forces Additional Needs and Disability Forum (FANDF).
Short breaks for children and young people from Forces families
SSAFA coordinates holidays and events that focus on offering new experiences and activities for children and young people from Service families.
Stepping Stone Homes for women and their children with a service connection
Stepping Stone Homes provide short-term supported accommodation, help and advice during difficult times. Female serving or ex-service personnel, or the female spouses and partners of serving or ex-service personnel, along with their dependent children are all eligible to stay there.
Professional health care
SSAFA’s professional health care staff provide patient-focussed care to military families worldwide.
Personal support and social work for the RAF
Working alongside the RAF, but outside the Chain of Command, SSAFA staff provide support for RAF personnel and their families, both Regulars and Reserves.
Independent Service Custody Visiting
SSAFA provides independent oversight of Army Service Custody facilities.
Support available to veterans and their families
SSAFA offer practical housing advice and support to Armed Forces veterans and their dependents including guidance around housing benefits and accessing social housing.
SSAFA can help veterans to get advice on dealing with debt when they have fallen behind on their bills or repayments to credit cards and are struggling to get by or at risk of losing their home.
SSAFA volunteers seek financial assistance for veterans to help maintain mobility and independence at home. Trained volunteers can help veterans get mobility equipment such as Electronically Powered Vehicles or mobility scooters, stair lifts, riser and recliner chairs.
Providing household goods
SSAFA can provide veterans with essential household items, including white and brown goods.
Support for homeless veterans
SSAFA have a range of specialist services to support veterans who are homeless or facing homelessness.
Support for offenders and ex-offenders
SSAFA can provide support for:
- Families of veterans whilst they are in custody
- Veterans and their families on release
- Veterans whilst they are in custody.
St Vincent's Care Home at Ryde provides residential care for older ex-service personnel and their spouses.
The Royal Homes in Wimbledon provide accommodation where widows and daughters of those who used to serve can live independently.
Glasgow's Helping Heroes
'Glasgow's Helping Heroes' is an award-winning service provided by SSAFA in partnership with Glasgow City Council for current and former members of the armed forces and their dependants or carers who live, work or wish to relocate there. Its dedicated team works with national and local government and third sector providers to resolve clients' employment, housing, health, financial and/or social isolation issues.
SSAFA also offers Forcesline, is a free and confidential telephone helpline and email service that provides support for both current and ex-service men and women from the Armed Forces and for their families.
SSAFA provides support where it is needed in the UK and worldwide:
- The volunteer network reaches into every county of the UK and 13 countries around the world.
- Volunteers in more than 90 branches provide advice and support to veterans and their families living in local communities.
- Service Committees work on army garrisons, RAF stations and naval establishments with over 60 Committees across the UK and wherever the UK Armed Forces are based worldwide.
SSAFA health care and social work services support the Armed Forces community in 13 countries.
Structure and governance
SSAFA are governed by a board of Trustees who make and approve SSAFA policy. They oversee the Chief Executive Sir Andrew Gregory  and his Executive team who together look after to day-to-day management of the charity.
SSAFA Trustees are all volunteers who contribute their time and expertise to the management of SSAFA. They have ultimate responsibility for directing SSAFA's affairs and ensuring the charity is solvent, well-run and meet objectives.
All Trustees are also members of the Council and meet regularly to discuss the charity's activities and progress. The Chairman of Council is Lieutenant General Sir Gary Coward KBE CB.
SSAFA’s charitable work is financed by contributions from benevolent funds, generous donations from members of the public and the profits generated by their Health and Social Care department who are contracted by the National Health Service and Ministry of Defence to provide direct support to serving personnel and their families in the UK and overseas.
James Gildea founded the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association in 1885. In 1919, after the establishment of the Royal Air Force (in 1918), the organisation expanded support to become the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA). In 1997, SSAFA Forces Help was established when two charities, the "Forces Help Society" and "SSAFA", merged. On 10 April 2013, the charity's name changed to SSAFA as part of a rebranding aimed at improving awareness of the organisation's work amongst members of the armed forces community.
In Foyle's War series six, episode 3 ("All Clear"), Sam volunteers with SSAFA, at Foyle's suggestion.
Disabled Facilities Grants (A guide to DFGs)