As the UK’s oldest, national, tri-service charity, we at SSAFA are no stranger to adapting to change. Having existed through six monarchies to date, weathered two World Wars and countless conflicts, COVID-19 is just one more chapter in a legacy of resilience. The need to adapt swiftly is now more important than ever – as we know that vulnerable members of the military community need us.
Even during this pandemic, SSAFA is doing everything possible to continue delivering this vital support whilst ensuring that our teams of volunteers, staff and, most importantly, our beneficiaries remain protected.
- Operating as our ‘front door’ is our confidential helpline ‘Forcesline’. While our team of advisors work entirely remotely now, they continue to provide an uninterrupted telephone, email and webchat facility for those who need support or reassurance, signposting to specialist services as requires. Concern over isolation, debt-related problems and accessing services is a growing issue that they are managing closely
- On the ground, our UK-wide branch network continues to support at a local level. Conversations are happening using intranet, Skype, Teams, email and phone to ensure that we can achieve this without face-to-face meetings. Locally, our younger volunteers are on hand to support the community with tasks such as shopping and collecting medicine, as well as being available for phone calls to check in on the vulnerable and isolated members of the military community.
- Alongside this, we are keeping as many of our residential facilities open as safely possible including:
- Gildea House, a refuge for women and children who are victims of domestic violence
- Fisher House, supporting military families of those in hospital and currently offering additional housing for those NHS staff based in Birmingham
- Queen Alexandra Court which provides independent living to over 70 elderly individuals.
- Meanwhile, our unique adoption service has introduced virtual adoption assessment panels for future adoptive military couples. Our post-adoption support workers have been creating and sharing online resources and games with adoptive families to help during this time, whilst general support and guidance is very much available as usual via remote channels. Preparations are being made to hit the ground running as soon as lockdown is lifted so that we can continue with this vital work.
- Glasgow Helping Heroes, our facility in central Glasgow run in partnership with Glasgow City Council, continues to provide critical support to vulnerable veterans and their families
- Our mentors, helping those transitioning out of the Armed Forces, are busier than ever, as the society that recent service leavers are re-joining is more difficult to navigate than ever under these circumstances
- SSAFA’s health care and social work staff are working flat out, providing critical support to servicemen and women – and their families, in Germany, North West Europe, Cyprus, Gibraltar, Brunei, Canada, the Falkland Islands and on all United Kingdom Royal Air Force stations under testing and most stressful conditions.
Speaking about the charity’s agile response to this outbreak, Sir Andrew Gregory, CEO of SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity said:
“I am immensely proud and grateful to our team of volunteers and staff, who have come together with determination and resilience in the face of this pandemic. Despite a concerning climate, the men and women who make up the beating heart of our charity are rallying to ensure that support is given to anyone in need. A sense of community spirit and collective grit has shone through – and I have heard this likened to the sentiments felt by the Nation during the Blitz.
“I urge anyone from the military community in need of SSAFA’s support to come forward, we were there then and we are here now. Being socially distanced does not mean that you are on your own.”
If you, or someone you know from the military community, is in need of SSAFA’s support, contact Forcesline on 0800 731 4880 or head to ssafa.org.uk/forcesline
Notes to editors
SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity, has been providing lifelong support to our Forces and their families since 1885. Last year our teams of volunteers and employees helped more than 82,000 people in need, from Second World War veterans to young men and women who have served in more recent conflicts, and their families. SSAFA understands that behind every uniform is a person. We are here for that person – any time they need us, in any way they need us, for as long as they need us.