Guest of honour
The Joining Forces programme has now ended
Joining Forces was an Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust supported programme in partnership with SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity. It was delivered by 12 local projects across England by local Age UKs and SSAFA branches. After 3 successful years, the programme has now ended. Many of the pages in this section will still be useful for information and advice. Alternatively, you can look at the relevant sections of the Age UK website.
It’s always good when veterans are given a special treat, whether it’s a day out or the opportunity to meet an interesting guest. Veterans from Joining Forces Tyne & Wear got both when they were able to spend time with none other than Falklands veteran Simon Weston CBE.
Julie Latimer is the Head of Income & Business Development for Age UK Gateshead. One of Julie’s responsibilities is Joining Forces Tyne & Wear, which is a combination of three different local Age UKs: Gateshead, Sunderland and North Tyneside, operating in four areas: Newcastle, Gateshead, Sunderland and North Tyneside, and she’s very keen to get the word out about the project.
A chance call
A couple of months ago, Julie was having a conversation with someone from a local care home provider called St. Martin’s Care, which runs six care homes across the North East. “They contacted us with regards giving away free meals every day in the care homes for people in the community,” reveals Julie. “We got into a conversation about that and I happened to mention that we have a veteran’s project, in case there were any veterans in the care homes that might be interested.”
It proved to be a fortuitous conversation because St. Martin’s Care has a relationship with an individual who is of great relevance to veterans. “They told us that their patron was Simon Weston,” says Julie. “He comes up to see them four times a year for open days, and it just so happened that he was due to visit. I naturally asked if we could come along. They kindly said that we could.”
On the day
On 18 July, five veterans and three members of staff from Joining Forces Tyne & Wear climbed aboard a minibus and drove to Park View Care Home on the outskirts of Forest Hall Village, Newcastle upon Tyne. There they were greeted by the staff, who Julie says were incredibly helpful and accommodating, and Simon himself, who took time to speak to the veterans individually and took pictures with them. “They have lovely gardens there, so we spent plenty of time out there,” says Julie. “They also have their own pub, which they opened for us.”
“The veterans told us how much they enjoyed being out and about and are keen to do more things like that,” adds Julie. “We’re therefore trying to sort out how we go about that, because quite a few people in the group have mobility needs. It was a brilliant day and also a great way to draw people’s attention to what Joining Forces Tyne & Wear is doing.”
Joining Forces Tyne & Wear
If you're in the Newcastle, Gateshead, Sunderland or North Tyneside and want help with accessing Armed Forces pensions, veteran's badges, medals and service history, or want to get involved in a range of activities, get in touch.