Many in the Armed Forces community were acutely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, but we adapted our services to ensure that those in need of support were able to receive it throughout the lockdown.
The closure of our public-facing outlets initially impacted on demand for our services, but as we adjusted to the new normal this steadily returned to historic levels. Our popular welfare centre drop-in sessions moved online, allowing us to maintain regular support for some of our most vulnerable clients. We also initiated a programme of proactive engagement, providing vital contact for those experiencing loneliness, isolation, or poor mental health.
The Welfare Support Service, a new service that was launched in May 2019, provides one-to-one support for veterans with multiple and complex needs. The service received 340 referrals in its first year, with the team of four Welfare Support Officers and two Independent Living Advisors carrying out 990 visits across Scotland during that time.
Face-to-face visits were paused during the lockdown but all welfare services have continued to be available remotely.
Collaborative working remains at the heart of our approach to service delivery. Our partnership with Citizens Advice Scotland on the Armed Services Advice Project (ASAP) celebrated its 10th Anniversary at the end of June.
During the past decade, ASAP has helped 15,950 people with 92,134 issues and secured £17.6 million in client financial gain. This represents a remarkable £4.43 for every £1 invested in the service.
Having secured £750,000 of new funding from the Scottish Government for the Unforgotten Forces consortium, we passed responsibility for leading it to Age Scotland. Over the past three years, Unforgotten Forces provided more than 13,000 instances of support to older veterans in Scotland. We continue to play a supportive role within the consortium.
June saw a major campaign success when the Scottish Parliament passed legislation to add a veterans’ question to the next census. This is something that, together with the Royal British Legion, we have been calling for since 2015 and the significance of the introduction of the veterans’ questions cannot be overstated. Along with other charities and statutory bodies, we will soon have a much more accurate picture of the size, location and profile of the Armed Forces community in Scotland.
Work continues on several other policy areas, including campaigning to scrap unfair visa fees currently being charged to UK military personnel from Commonwealth nations who wish to remain here after service. We will also be launching our first ever manifesto in 2021 ahead of the Scottish Parliamentary elections. Influencing public policy for the benefit of our Armed Forces community is an increasingly important and impactful part of our work.
Influencing public policy for the benefit of our Armed Forces community is an increasingly important and impactful part of our work.