SSAFA is here to help our veterans

As we continue to look into work being done to help the county's veterans, we hear from Sally Cadec, Dorset branch chair of SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity.

SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity provides support to those who are currently serving or who have ever served in the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, British Army or the Royal Air Force including reservists and their families. 

Around 2.6 million people living in the UK today are estimated to have served in the armed forces at some point in their lives. Within Dorset there are estimated to be 52,000 individuals with a link to the services, including children of serving personnel.

Each year, around 20,000 service men and women leave the services and return to civilian life.  That’s why SSAFA’s work is so important. 

As the nation’s oldest tri-service military charity, operating for more than 130 years, SSAFA (formerly known as Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association) understands the unique demands of service life on personnel and their families. The charity believes those who have undertaken important and dangerous duties for their country and who face difficulties resulting from service life should get the best possible support when they need it.

Here in Dorset, there is a well-established team of SSAFA volunteers supporting veterans and their families across the county. 

There are no paid staff in Dorset and volunteers are organised across six Divisions, so help is never far away.  

SSAFA caseworkers offer empathetic, non-judgemental support and advice to their clients in a practical way. Many caseworkers have served themselves or bring a previous professional background of dealing with difficult problems such as Police Officers and support officers with Citizens Advice Bureau.

All are trained to support their clients with a wide range of issues, including amongst others, financial and housing problems, the need to re-furbish homes to allow those with injuries or disabilities to live independently and how to access service pensions and benefits. 

Across Dorset, caseworkers will work tirelessly with veterans, often for many months to help with whatever difficult or intractable problems they might face.

SSAFA volunteers are also increasingly dealing with veterans who are encountering mental health problems related to their time serving in conflicts overseas. 

To better support those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) volunteers have been looking at ways of supporting recovery in ways that complement the support given by GPs. 

SSAFA Dorset has been working with Livability, the Wellbeing charity based at Holton Lee, to offer veterans suffering from mental health problems the opportunity to attend a Woodland Wellbeing course for 5-6 hours once a week to undertake activities such as woodworking, painting and cooking outdoors on an open fire.

Those who attend the course can engage with others in a unique environment taking them away from the stresses of everyday life. Being in the open air, with those who may have suffered similar situations in a supportive and empathetic safe space has proved very beneficial. Everyone who has attended the course has commented on how much it has helped them.

In Parkstone, SSAFA has the only UK charity shop, again staffed entirely by volunteers.  Some of the funding raised in the shop was used to provide gym memberships for clients who are now reaping the benefits of regular exercise and the opportunity to meet others at their local gym as part of a larger package of support to improve their emotional health and well-being.

Homelessness is also an issue for many veterans within Dorset. The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, the YMCA, Pivotal Housing and SSAFA are considering further ways to alleviate this.   

Whatever the need, SSAFA volunteers are available to assist.  If you need advice on whether you, or someone you know, is eligible for support please call 01202 742934. 

Additionally, a small team of volunteers focus on fundraising and awareness and annually organise a curry lunch in February, a military band concert in June and a Christmas concert. They will also be hosting open gardens at Charborough Park on Saturday 27 April, 2–6pm, courtesy of the Drax family, to raise awareness and funds and will be out and about over Armed Forces weekend later in the year. Why not come along and find out more?

If you are interested in supporting the work of SSAFA in Dorset either as a volunteer or would like to fundraise for the charity, please contact dorset.branch@ssafa.org.uk or call 01202 742934 or visit  www.ssafa.org.uk.

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