Kate Viggers delves into the practical help available to military families from a variety of Service charities…


MILITARY families are resilient and most of you cope happily throughout your soldier’s career.

But Army life can present situations where extra support is required. Knowing how and where to access help is important, especially if you’re beyond the wire or outside the welfare network.

“While Regular Forces personnel are likely to read magazines like Army&You and Soldier and stay in touch with what is going on through websites and social media, older Reservists might not know about these resources,” said Lt Gen Sir Andrew Ridgway, chairman of Cobseo, the Confederation of Service Charities.

“We are working closely to develop lines of communication and ensure opportunities to share best practice are maximised.”

Cobseo helps its charity members interact with the government, Royal household, private sector and Forces community so they can work together to provide the best possible support.

AFF Chief Executive Sara Baade agrees that collaboration is key to ensuring your needs are met: “We often identify a need for additional support but, due to limited resources, we are not always able to act.

“This is where other charities are invaluable. Without the generous support of ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, we would not have been able to deliver the employment and training specialist service, nor the health and additional needs support.

“The Forces in Mind Trust has also given AFF and the other families federations a grant to support Forces families through transition. We never take any aid for granted and are truly grateful for all support we receive to help us support Army families.”

Service charities don’t just raise vital funds for soldiers, veterans and families – they improve awareness of the practical assistance available.

From counselling and holidays to household repairs and childcare, there’s a wealth of support on offer. Whatever your situation, don’t be afraid to ask. Here’s a snapshot of some of the charities which can support you:

General

ABF – The Soldiers’ Charity (www.soldierscharity.org0207 901 8900)
Supporting the entire Army family

“The family is often left to carry the burden of a soldier’s service, so it’s hugely important to make sure they are looked after.”
Brigadier (Retd) Robin Bacon, Chief of Staff

The Jamiesons
After Gary was injured in Afghanistan, the charity paid for major home renovations, funding hotel accommodation for the family throughout, car adaptations and gym equipment. He said: “The Soldiers’ Charity had such a positive impact on my life.”


Royal British Legion (www.britishlegion.org.uk0808 802 8080)
Pop-in centres throughout UK
Lifelong support for Armed Forces, Reservists, veterans & families

  • Money & employment advice
  • Regular quick household repairs
  • Break centres for older veterans
  • Adventure/family holidays

The McCutcheons
Anna’s husband John developed PTSD after two tours of Iraq: “The Poppy Break helped glue our family back together. John struggles to interact with others but the break helped him relax and he enjoyed chatting to other veterans. For that week, I got my husband back and the children got their father back.”


SSAFA (www.ssafa.org.ukForcesline 0800 731 4880)
Provides lifelong support to anyone who is currently serving or has ever served and their families

  • Short-notice deployment welfare assistance, from lawn mowing to childcare
  • Befriending, especially for new arrivals on base
  • Support groups for bereaved families, siblings and families of wounded, injured or sick
  • Adoption
  • Housing
  • Support and activity breaks for families with a young person who has an additional need/disability

“Soldiers’ parents often contact Forcesline to talk. Our online postcode search helps Reservists find their nearest SSAFA branch.”
Sue Pillar, Director Volunteer Ops

DEPLOYMENT/SEPARATION

Reading Force (www.readingforce.org.uk)
A shared family reading initiative

The Wilsons
“My husband deployed almost as soon as we moved. My boys were three and four and days seemed long. Receiving books through the post was a great thrill for them and completing a scrapbook together was a lovely way to pass the time. It was great to give them something to talk to dad about on Skype.”


Little Troopers (www.littletroopers.netinfo@littletroopers.net)
Care & fun while mum/dad is away

  • Children receive separation packs and birthday cards if parents are away
  • Events in UK/at overseas bases – summer camps, football/dance workshops – provide a distraction and lots to tell an absent parent

The Thompsons
Becky’s husband, in the Royal Engineers, has deployed five times since their children were born. She has attended summer camps and a Christmas party. “For one whole weekend, my kids are ‘normal’ because everybody is in the same boat. As parents we also get to relax in a safe environment knowing that everyone understands the stresses of separation.”

FAMILY BEREAVEMENT

Family Activity Breaks (www.fabcamps.org.uk)
Challenging activity camps

Fun and challenging activity camps around the UK for bereaved military families with children up to the age of 19.


Scotty’s Little Soldiers (www.scottyslittlesoldiers.co.uk)
A variety of programmes for bereaved children looking to a brighter future

The Lockwoods
Laura lost her husband Michael, who served with the Royal Horse Artillery, in 2014 to a brain tumour. She said: “It’s difficult when we’re out and [see] other children with their daddies or a man in uniform. Scotty’s Little Soldiers has shown us love, support and ensured we’re not on our own.”


Forces Children’s Trust (www.forceschildrenstrust.org+44 (0)1737 361077)
Companionship for children whose parent has died or received life-threatening injuries in conflict or Service

  • Educational and theatre trips; fund to help cover extra-curricular lessons
  • Holidays to Disneyland and Spain
  • Christmas parties
  • Adventure week with the Outward Bound Trust

“While nothing can take away the pain of losing a parent, our activities and support help children realise they are not alone in their grief.”
Denny Wise, founder

ILLNESS/INJURY

The Ripple Pond (www.theripplepond.org01252 913021, Mon to Fri 9.30am – 2.30pm)
Supporting the supporters

  • Meetings within one hour’s drive, where possible
  • Members share stories and links to relevant organisations
  • Buddy system and secret Facebook group

A spouse’s story
Jess contacted The Ripple Pond after struggling with her husband’s PTSD. “The online support is invaluable. I have made friends with others in my situation and that makes me feel less alone. It is difficult being the partner to someone with an ‘invisible’ illness.”


Defence Medical Welfare Service (www.dmws.org.uk)
A leading light in medical welfare

  • “Care navigators” address and assess needs associated with ill-health outside a clinical team’s remit, such as accommodation, debt and substance misuse
  • Source suitable help and advocate for patient and family
  • Accurate information is provided to units often many miles away

“The biggest difference we make is to patients and families who rely on us for practical and emotional support at incredibly stressful, worrying times.”
Fiona Walters, founder


Band of Sisters (bandofsisters@helpforheroes.org.uk01980 844280)
Where there’s a wounded soldier, there’s a wounded family

  • Help with living with someone with psychological problems
  • Hidden Wounds” – psychological support for those living with anxiety, depression, stress, anger or wishing to change drinking habits
  • Family breaks, welfare advice, access to H4H Recovery Centres

A mother’s story
Former LBdr Daniel Richards struggled to find work after a near fatal motorbike accident. Mum Nikki Fleming said: “I called Help for Heroes [and] asked them if they had contacts within companies that would give Daniel a chance to show employers just what he is made of. They said they would work with him and try to find him employment. Without their support, we would not be where we are today.”

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