What is it that can make you feel lonely or socially isolated? Is it being away from family and friends, being stuck without transport or being on your own for a period of time? These are the questions being asked by the Welsh Government who are developing a strategy to tackle loneliness and social isolation in the country.

AFF successfully applied for funding to look at this from an army family perspective.

Sadie Baldwin, AFF’s Wales co-ordinator, and Annabel Ingram, former regional manager Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, organised ‘the Welsh project’ earlier this year.

Event programme

“We ran a ten-week programme of extra events so we could speak to families and gather their thoughts and comments,” explains Annabel. “These included coffee mornings, online chats and bingo evenings where spouses and children could join in, have fun and share their thoughts on the project topics. We also had an online survey and a media campaign to highlight why we wanted to gather evidence.”

Face-to-face meetings became virtual events throughout March, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, but this didn’t stop families sharing their views.

The virtual bingo was a particular success with Sadie as the master bingo caller.

“Once we knew we had the funding I spoke with different families about events they would like – every place I visited said they would love bingo,” says Sadie.

“Everyone can meet up, have a chat and not be alone. The virtual bingo seemed to work out even better. I mean, who doesn’t want to relax at home, still see friends and win prizes?

“Spouses from all over Wales joined in, including some who live married unaccompanied.

“It was fantastic to see new faces. I also set up additional needs groups in some areas and it was nice to meet people who felt that regular coffee mornings weren’t for them.”

“Enjoyable family fun had by us all in our house,” said one army family, whilst another commented on the additional needs group, saying: “It’s nice to know there are people who just get it.

“This group has been needed for a while.”

What next?

Views on life in Wales were varied and quite often reflected whether the family lived in a town or rural location, or in a quarter or their own home.

Your comments and the survey have given us evidence to go back to the Welsh Government and highlight emerging issues such as lack of public transport in some areas, and the kind of support you want to receive.

If you missed the chance to participate, it isn’t too late. Contact wales@aff.org.uk

Kick off your career

If you live in Wales and would like free and impartial careers guidance and employability support, Careers Wales can help. You may need advice on training, apprenticeships, funding options, childcare support or putting together a CV.

Careers Wales is available for service children over the age of 13 in a school setting. Through the Working Wales service, anyone aged 16+ facing barriers to finding and sustaining employment can also get support.

You can tap into services through its website, web chat, social channels and helpline. After being paused for lockdown, face-to-face support will be offered through schools, Careers Wales centres and at events at Jobcentre Plus and community venues.

Visit careerswales.gov.wales, call 0800 024 4844 or follow on social @careerswales

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