Many cities and communities around the UK are involved in actively supporting Veterans who might be facing problems, whether it be housing, depression or assistance with registering for benefits that they are entitled to claim. Most of these schemes are run in conjunction with one or more of the traditional Service charities such as SSAFA, the RBL or the ABF, or a combination of all of these in the form of Veterans Gateway (it still looks odd not to have “The” in front of Veterans Gateway for some reason).
In recent years a lot more of the lesser known charities have become involved in these schemes, although that does not mean these are recently formed: for example, Combat Stress celebrates its 100th Anniversary this year, having been formed after the end of WW1 to try to cope with the huge numbers of men coping with the experiences in that war. In addition, new alliances between charities and charitable foundations are now providing a joined-up approach to supporting Veterans in the community in a way that has probably not been seen up to now.
One good example of this Multi-agency” approach is happening in Glasgow, where SSAFA and Glasgow City Council joined forces a few years ago to create Glasgow’s Helping Heroes to “offer holistic help and advice on issues such as housing, employment and training, dealing with debt or financial issues as well as assistance relating to health problems.”
Glasgow’s Helping Heroes, in turn, set up a collaborative project with Glasgow Rangers Charity Foundation to create the Glasgow Veterans United programme which aims “to improve the wellbeing and lifestyle choices of veterans struggling with mental health issues, additions or social isolation and helps them address the negative attitudes that are affecting their lives and relationships with family and friends.”
Initially, the 16-week programme was based mainly on using football as a means of getting people to relax , have fun, and then to start the process of addressing their individual issues and problems. One of the participants in the pilot programme commented: “Just having a few hours a day when you can forget your problems and have some fun with like-minded people is really important.”
The early programme also included a number of sessions where experts were able to address specific aspects of Veterans’ problems, but the main focus was on outdoor activity with the support of members of the Rangers team, with a coaching qualification at the end. However, the scope of the programme has now been extended to train participants in practical skills, including, for example, first-aid related to incidents such as drug-overdose or alcoholism.
The programme has evolved and, as explained on the Glasgow’s Veterans United website:
“Glasgow’s Helping Heroes works in partnership with the NHS and the Rangers Charity Foundation to deliver a 12 week Health and Wellbeing Course for veterans.
The weekly course consists of two hours of self-improvement, followed by 30 minutes of fitness training and one hour of coaching with participants working towards a SFA Level 1 coaching certificate.
Included on the course are peer mentors – previous participants of the GVU course who made excellent progress during their time – these mentors will work alongside the veterans to help with any issues or concerns that may arise during the course.
Each afternoon will end with a coaching session with one of the Rangers community coaches, where the participants will work towards achieving a qualification in coaching.
Throughout the course participants will also be able to access various external initiatives including skill building, volunteering opportunities and social activities to capitalise on the skills, knowledge and friendships gained during the course.”
Another more recent initiative was the involvement of the Glasgow Police. Officers from Greater Glasgow’s Safer Communities Department worked with the Veterans to start to break down the perceptions that the two groups are on the opposite sides of the fence. The notion that police officers can actually be there to help is a novel one for some Veterans! But the scheme worked and at the end of the course participants came to realize that the Police are very supportive of the Forces Community, whether you are serving or retired.
In addition the most recent course: “…..had new content such as involvement by Combat Stress, an NHS sexual health nurse, Police Scotland Community Health team, emergency first aid training by the Red Cross, as well as content from previous years such as NHS input on smoking cessation and responsible drinking and connecting participants with Venture Trust. GVU also hosted a ‘What’s Next’ afternoon near the end of the course with volunteer organisations, employers, health promotion organisations and other veterans charities. The afternoon was incredibly successful as it gives the course participants an individual path to keep moving forward, the afternoon will definitely be a part of all future courses.”
If any veterans in Glasgow would like to sign up for the next course starting on the 17th May then they should contact: Sally.Stimson@ssafa.org.uk
Some useful links:
If you attend the course and would like to report back to The Military Times about your experiences for the benefit of others who might be interested – please do let us know and we will publish your story.