Welfare officers go the proverbial extra mile to keep forces families smiling…

Rebasing is hard on families and units alike without the added complexity of a pandemic. Carole Rudd, AFF Manager England, visited The Royal Dragoon Guards (RDG) in Catterick and 1 YORKS in Warminster before COVID-19 struck and was impressed by their proactive approach, especially when everything came to a halt…

“The news that their moves had been postponed sent a ripple of shock through their wider communities,” says Carole.

RDG Unit Welfare Officer, Capt Danny Franks, spoke about how they managed to reschedule and subsequently support their families. He says: “Initially it was chaotic. However, regular meetings with Army Basing gave us the answers we needed.

“We worked tirelessly to prioritise families and listen to their needs. We approached this by putting ourselves in the soldiers’ and families’ shoes and ensured any information we shared was from credible sources, to mitigate any misinformation.”

Good communication
RDG took to social media to share a steady flow of information, as well as fun and engaging activities.

“Throughout this whole process RDG and 1 YORKS have shown extraordinary resilience and creativity in their approach to supporting their families,” says Carole. “I was surprised to hear the RDG welfare team had approached employers of spouses, after they’d already resigned or left their jobs, to ask if they could re-employ them for the duration of the delay.

“In particular, the 1 YORKS unit welfare officer, Capt Lofty Worboys, showed great understanding by phoning individual spouses to discuss the delay and plan of action, in the early days of lockdown, with the hope of dispelling rumours.”

Preparing to move
As the assignment order ban was lifted, a handful of families moved during Easter leave, due to having ‘early mover’ status.

“On arrival in Warminster, one family was faced with a few hurdles and with no unit support in the vicinity, Capt Franks took it upon himself to travel the 300-mile journey to support them personally – a prime example of going above and beyond,” says Carole.

Beth Tatt (pictured) says: “The move went as smoothly as possible thanks to the welfare department managing the removals and taking over the house for us.

“All we had to do was pack and remember the dates and times. The whole transition covered only two days from Catterick to Warminster and now we are enjoying our new home.”

LCpl Brunning, of the RDG, says: “Our move was made harder with COVID-19 restrictions in place but, with support from the welfare team and the regiment, it went smoothly.”

Building the community
With rebasing concluded, Capt Franks is now focused on fully integrating the unit into Warminster.

“Initiatives such as the litter sweep have instilled a sense of community spirit and pride, which we will continue,” he says.

“We are now liaising with local businesses and parks to secure entrance tickets for families.”

Alongside this, the welfare team is planning a ‘Welcome to Warminster’ event, when COVID-19 allows, which will include schools, veterans and local businesses, encouraging a whole community approach.

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