Responding to the needs of service personnel and their families, the Army Central Fund (ACF), has recently supported SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity with grants totalling £185,000.
Concentrating on help for service families these grants for families were threefold:
- to support SSAFA’s outstanding work in offering Short Breaks to families which include a child with additional needs
- to support SSAFA’s Serving Community Development Project, which gives direct support to those still serving
- to support Norton House, a SSAFA respite home for service families needing accommodation whilst their loved one is undergoing treatment at the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre.
At the best of times, caring for a child with an additional need or disability can be challenging. Service families are under constant pressure to make sure that care is compatible with their ever-changing lives. This has been particularly true in the context of COVID-19, where the options for high-risk children have been, and continue to be limited. The demand for Short Breaks this year has been so high that SSAFA extended its normal provision from three to four breaks. The average cost to SSAFA per Short Break totals around £50,000; the ACF grant goes a long way towards helping SSAFA run these breaks.
Ella has a couple of neurological disorders that are quite rare. One is called West Syndrome and also Epilepsy. She is nonverbal and immobile. During the August 2021 SSAFA short break, Ella and her family took part in a wide variety of activities at the Lake District Calvert Trust, including kayaking, archery, abseiling, rock climbing and low ropes.
Ella’s mum, Emma said:
“My kids have been able to spend time doing activities together and actually laughing together, which has been so lovely to see. We have managed to watch the children overcome fears and enjoy the activities which, for me, has been amazing.”
SSAFA’s Serving Community Development Project is in it’s third year. Acute isolation, unemployment for the non-serving spouse, long periods of separation, and mental health and wellbeing deterioration are areas it has identified as needing urgent action. New networks of Serving Community Teams are being supported and developed across the UK, with an emphasis on Community Volunteers and outreach to vulnerable groups.
Once established, Serving Community Teams are able to give targeted local support to the people who need it most.
Chris Hotham, Serving Community Team Chair, Salisbury Plain, said:
“On a recent visit to our Army Welfare Service community centre I was met by staff who were very keen to show how they had spent their grant and explain what a difference it will make to the quality of children’s learning.”
When a military family gets the call to say their serving loved one is seriously ill or injured, the last thing they should worry about is where they will stay to be close to them during treatment and rehabilitation, or how they will pay for it. SSAFA provides free home-from-home accommodation at Norton House, near the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre (DMRC), for military families while their loved ones are being treated or receiving follow-up rehabilitation treatment.
Cheril Bascombe, Manager at Norton House, said:
“When families come here they can be under considerable stress. We look after them like they are family and hopefully give them the space and support they need so they can be there for their loved one in care.”
Without generous external funding, it would not be possible to offer these vital projects to our serving families.
Sir Andrew Gregory, CEO at SSAFA said:
“The commitment of the Army Central Fund to underwrite our work supporting the serving Army community is greatly appreciated. Their grants will make a huge difference to the lives of service personnel and their families.”