It’s reassuring to know that all prospective UWOs take part in an extensive course which covers all aspects of welfare to support army families…
Easingwold in North Yorkshire is much more than just a beautiful part of the country, according to course organiser Lt Col (Retd) Michael [Mick] Tobin. “It is also home to the Unit Welfare Officers’ Course held each month. Any officer, warrant officer, senior NCO, regular or reserves, or civil servant who provides welfare care for soldiers or families can attend this course,” he says.
Never more important
Whether it’s helping soldiers to sort out their finances or supporting families during the COVID-19 crisis, they’re the first port of call for a plethora of issues.
“Welfare is a massive subject and while these individuals are not there to solve everyone’s problems, they must have the information to direct people to the right place. Those who take on the role are usually late entry officers in their first commissioned posting. Equipped with a mobile phone that’s rarely switched off, they must be available to take calls from those in need of support at any time,” says Mick.
“The course is split into two parts – a five-day course as they start in their welfare role, and four to six months later, a two-day session with the option of doing a further two days of armed forces mental health first aid training. Throughout the week, via presentations and interactive sessions, prospective welfare workers learn about policy, safeguarding, loss and bereavement, housing, the Army Welfare Service and other military charities,” he adds.
AFF is one of the many presenters on the course as Emma Perrin, AFF’s manager devolved nations, explains: “We speak to new UWOs as well as those refreshing their knowledge. We provide the family perspective and updates on the latest policies and how they may affect military families.”
Due to the varied and complex issues the welfare officers may have to deal with, the course content covers a vast amount in a short space of time.
“It will give them an insight into issues they are likely to encounter, and how the pressures of everyday life can affect mental wellbeing,” says Emma.
Once UWOs have completed the course, AFF staff are often the link between welfare teams and families and vice versa.
“We can play a similar role, when UWOs are not sure where to turn and need further advice, they often contact AFF to find a resolution,” adds Emma.
The course also includes role play with real families, so they can experience different scenarios in preparation for when they get to their unit.
A new UWO who recently attended the comprehensive course, says: “Starting as a welfare officer can be quite daunting, the course has given me the knowledge and confidence I needed.”
Keeping up the knowledge
The refresher element to the course has also proved vital for those that have held a welfare role for more than three years.
“I’ve worked as a unit welfare officer for quite a while, so I didn’t think they could tell me anything I didn’t already know. How wrong I was,” says another attendee.
To find your unit welfare office, contact your AFF regional lead at aff.org.uk
If any budding actors or actresses in North Yorkshire would like to help with the role play sessions on the course, with expenses paid, then Mick would love to hear from you. If you’d like to take part, email Emma at email@example.com