A volunteer at SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity is asking people to help a 100-year-old veteran, former Second World War...
On hand to help and ready to listen
Established to be the first point of contact for support, Veterans’ Gateway is a new service that can connect Veterans, their families and their carers to organisations that can help them with a range of issues, including those related to housing, finance, mental health and employment
Still in its first year, this new 24-hour service for the UK’s military Veterans comprises an expert network of organisations that support the Armed Forces community. Led by a consortium of military charities, including The Royal British Legion, Poppyscotland, SSAFA – the Armed Forces Charity, Combat Stress and its service provider Connect Assist, Veterans’ Gateway brings together more than30 charities, both military and non-military, as referral partners.
Independent research* commissioned by the consortium revealed that more than half (54%) of Veterans found the sheer number of charity providers confusing – there are now more than 2,000 registered Armed Forces charities. The resulting confusion left 45% unsure where to turn, while 41% said the number of military charities made it ‘harder and slower’ to get the right help.
Contact Veterans’ Gateway
Tel: 0808 802 1212
A team from Connect Assist run the £2 million project from an office just outside Cardiff. Their role is to be the initial voice to those needing help and support. They’re the first point of contact, directing housing, financial and welfare issues to specialist charities and organisations.
Veterans can get in touch via a 24-hour online chat, phone and text service. Among the specially trained operators providing help and guidance are a number of Veterans who are drawing on their own knowledge of transitioning from Service life to civvy street to help others …
Callee Andrew (team supervisor)
Aged 17, Callee joined the Royal Navy as the last class of Operator Mechanic. During her time serving on-board HMS Manchester, Callee went on many operational deployments, including time spent in the Gulf on anti-piracy/anti-narcotic operations and in the Falklands on a petrol vessel maintaining sovereign presence. Callee’s husband is still currently serving in the Royal Navy as a Petty Officer, so she can maintains a high level of knowledge and understanding of that particular service branch.
Says Callee, ‘We are geared to help the Veteran community with any issuesand direct them to the right place. Often, new issues and underlying problems come to light as we are chatting to Veterans. We are here to help and give them the best options available, and many find it very reassuring to speak to someone who knows about Forces life and the places they have served in.’
Paul Mathias (helpline adviser)
Paul joined the Army in 1986 as a Gunner in the Royal Artillery. He worked on Light Guns before moving into Air Defence. Paul did five tours of Northern Ireland, and also served in Germany, Cyprus, Norway, Belize, Iraq and various other countries while on exercises. He left the Army in 2005 and joined the MoD Police as a security officer. Paul then joined a Super League rugby team as a coach and also worked behind the scenes with Wales Rugby League. He was diagnosed with PTSD and has received treatment through NHS Wales and Combat Stress.
Says Paul, ‘I have been through the transition process myself and relied on the support of Combat Stress. I wanted to work with Veterans’ Gateway to give back to others some of the help I had. There are so many Veterans out there that need our support. Making that initial call is the hardest thing you have to do, as your pride deters you from showing weakness or vulnerability. You feel you are letting your comrades down, but things get a lot better when you acknowledge the issues.’
Veterans’ Gateway is there for you
Craig Slicker, a 43-year-old former Lance Corporal in the Army, left the Infantry in 2013 having been made redundant. After 17 years’ service he found the transition to civvy street incredibly difficult but, unaware of what support services were out there, did not reach out to any charities for guidance. He believes Veterans’ Gateway will be a great help for others like him, struggling to adapt to life outside the military.
Says Craig, ‘When I was told I was leaving, I had to think “what next” and, after being in the Army so long, it was a shock to the system. I didn’t know what I could do or wanted to do, or where I could turn for advice. A service like Veterans’ Gateway would have been hugely helpful because I had no idea how to find out what support was available to me. I will definitely use it because I’m still struggling financially, just getting used to being paid weekly is a challenge and trying to balance the bills, and I’m still looking for a job that suits my skills.’
Stacey Hodnett grew up in a Forces family and loved the camaraderie of military life, so joined up and spent 19 years in the British Army. She was diagnosed with PTSD in 2014 and was medically discharged the following year. It was only when she was talking to a friend that getting help was suggested to her and that made her realise she needed to seek support.
Says Stacey, ‘In the beginning I wasn’t aware of what help was out there and how I could go about getting that help. To be honest it was “grin and bear it” for a long time because I didn’t know where to turn.’
Because the service enables people to talk, type or even text questions, the operators do the rest, so accessing the right help isn’t as overwhelming. Stacey continues:‘Veterans’ Gateway means that people like me won’t be alone; all the answers will be there for people with problems. It’s just the perfect scenario for people who need help. Veterans’ Gateway is worth its weight in gold. A lot of people in the Forces are clueless about what help is out there – it’s a fantastic idea.’
Veterans’ Gateway is available to you whether you’re on day one of your new life on civvy street, or if weeks, months or even years down the line you find yourself in need of help and advice. Whether there is a simple question you need answering or you have a case that may need specialist help, contact the service and our experts will do the rest.
* Independent research commissioned by The Royal British Legion in its capacity as consortium-lead for the launch of Veterans’ Gateway. The survey of 1,000 individuals from the British Armed Forces community aged 18+ was conducted between 8and 26 May 2017.
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