When COVID 19 closed down much of the nation in late March 2020 COBSEO member, The Bolton Guild of Help, had to make significant changes to its ways of working in order to continue providing support to military veterans and their families
By setting up offices within the homes of the Guild staff we have managed to continue assisting clients via remote working by phone, e-mail, text and the Royal Mail
But our major achievement has been the setting up of our Veterans Shall Not Be Forgotten programme. This Armed Forces Covenant Fund supported project commenced in July 2020 and was scheduled to end at the end of November but, due to Lockdown’s 2 and 3 it was extended it until the end of February 2021.
SSAFA The Armed Forces caseworker, Richard Davies, is also a Trustee of the Guild of Help and worked in partnership with the Guild’s staff to set up the project. SSAFA Bury & Bolton caseworkers Adam Thomas, Alice Moore and Olivia Tunnah were very much involved as well and the Divisional Secretary, Dave Shawcross, provided invaluable support as and when it was required.
The original project target was to engage with 100 veterans and their families during COVID. We actually engaged with 115 and more are still coming forward for help.
The project has provided assistance to our Vets in many ways including:
- The provision of more than 120 emergency food hampers
- Assistance with electrical and building repairs
- Funding to help provide / repair mobility aids
- Assistance with rent arrears
- Information, advice and guidance regarding benefit entitlements and financial matters
- The provision of white goods (washing machines, cookers and fridge/freezers)
- Flowers to bereaved spouses
- Access to a mental health support team
- Christmas gift vouchers for veterans children
- Birthday cakes to needy children
- School uniforms
- A software package to allow a family to continue studying during COVID
- Face masks to help ensure client safety during Lockdown 1
- Provision of an occupational therapist report
- Regular checks (via our SSAFA volunteers) to maintain contact with those clients who requested it
- E-mail support to a profoundly deaf client
- Assistance with energy costs via the Energy Trust
During this project we have confirmed (if confirmation was needed!) that the key issues now facing our Vets are:
- Loneliness and isolation
- Mental health issues
- Financial problems
Our partner, Christians against Poverty (CAP) are now providing wonderful support to those of our clients who are in need of benefits advice and financial management advice and guidance.
BAND (local mental health charity) is also supporting a number of our clients.
Our friends within the Fusiliers Association in Bury have made a significant contribution to the success of the project and our thanks go out to them.
We are now exploring ways to extend this project throughout 2021 and into 2022. COVID is still with us and the impact of it will be felt for many months, if not years, to come.