Calls for help
New quarterly results from SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity, reveals that there’s been an 11% increase in veterans (as well as serving personnel and their families)contacting Forcesline, its free helpline, for support in the first half of this year. We spoke to Bill Grant, the Forcesline Manager, about why more people feel the need to reach out.
“Many people that have served thrive and do extremely well,” explains Bill of older veterans. “But those aren’t the people who contact us.”
“It’s not about one particular issue that’s caused this increase in calls,” he continues. “It’s a combination that includes debt, problems around housing, and mental health.”
A complex web of issues
These three issues are often interlinked. “Unfortunately it’s not always clear cut,” says Bill “We may get calls around a housing situation or debt, but then it becomes clear that someone has fallen into debt because they've long been unable to work, or could never work, because of their mental health, or are awaiting assessment to see if they can claim any benefits.”
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“For veterans, there’s a whole variety of reasons for falling into the grips of debt," says Bill. "There are benefit cuts, or the change to Universal Credit where people often have to wait a considerable amount of time before they receive their first payment, or the lack of social housing meaning that people are often having to rent privately with less than scrupulous landlords.”
Bill suggests there’s a solution for anyone experiencing these similar problems. “Generally we’ll refer those people to their local SSAFA branch to see what assistance they can provide, whether that’s advising them how to manage their debt, or more practically to try and address the debt problem.”
“Homelessness is a very real issue,” says Bill. “And then there are older members of the ex-service community who may struggle to keep themselves in their existing properties because they need to make modifications in order to achieve some mobility, whether it be wet rooms or stairlifts, which obviously have a cost attached to them.” (You can read about how SSAFA helped Alf, an older veteran in a similar situation, here.)
Again, the branch network is absolutely key to providing help. “They’re all volunteers and they do an incredible job. Unfortunately, as demand rises, our case worker community is static or reducing, so it’s imperative that we get new volunteers to come forward.”
“We got a huge number of calls from people who feel dreadfully isolated and lonely, which impacts their mental health,” says Bill. “We get calls from older veterans who are experiencing PTSD, and there’s certainly a generational thing where the attitude can be, ‘What have you got to be depressed about? Pull yourself together!’ and those sort of comments that do no good at all. Forcesline is here to help.”
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The line can be accessed from anywhere in the world, and is open from 9am-5pm Monday to Friday. The UK number is 0800 731 4880.