Veterans can face all sorts of difficulties, from dealing with problems that have arisen during their time in the military to making the transition to civilian life. For others, difficulties can occur many years after they have left the Armed Forces.
We directly supported over 1,600 individuals through our own services, a 10% increase on the previous year. Thousands more were helped as a result of our support to partner services and organisations.
In June 2013 we opened a dedicated welfare centre in the heart of Inverness to provide advice, information and support to the large numbers of serving and ex-Service people living in the North of Scotland, estimated at 118,000. Holistic advice and support is available to assess and address individuals’ needs and those simply requiring information and signposting can access a drop-in service with online resources. Partnership working is important to Poppyscotland and the team in Inverness has worked very hard to develop links with local organisations, with considerable success.
“Poppyscotland Inverness is helping me get my life on track. They listen with compassion and understanding. They have been there for me when I have been at crisis point. They have allowed me to take things at my own pace. But most of all they have given me the hope of a normal happy life for me and my family.”
Armed Services Advice Project
A key success for Poppyscotland is the ground-breaking Armed Services Advice Project (ASAP), delivered by Citizens Advice Scotland. Poppyscotland is the lead and major funder of the project, to which a number of other partner charities also contribute. Expert advice on a wide range of topics is delivered through a national telephone helpline – 0845 231 0300 – and at bureaux in strategic locations across Scotland.
In 2012/13 ASAP was expanded geographically to improve access to advice. Initially the service was available in Dundee & Fife, Inverness, Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire and Stirling. In 2012/13 the service has been extended to take in Edinburgh & Lothians, Falkirk (funded by Falkirk Council) & Clackmannanshire and Aberdeen & Aberdeenshire. In addition, Fife has a full-time presence and Dundee has been extended to take in Angus & Perth. ASAP provided assistance to nearly 2,200 people, helping with issues including benefits, debt, employment, health and housing. Signposting to specialist ex-Service organisations was also available. During this period, client financial gains in the region of £1 million were generated, which is a terrific result. ASAP is proving incredibly popular and we expect it to go from strength to strength in the future.
“I was at my lowest and couldn’t even open any mail as it came through the door. I have no idea where I would be now if it wasn’t for ASAP as I was in a very dark place, in pain and almost suicidal through frustration at constant bombardment of phone calls, forms and tribunals. This project is highly deserving of recognition and reward and my adviser deserves a medal!”
Across Poppyscotland’s welfare services, providing a hand-up is the aim and our employment services are an excellent example of this. Veterans can face difficulties in securing and sustaining suitable employment. Some have a clear but limited vision of opportunities available to them and if their plans fall through they often don’t know where to turn. Others leave the Armed Forces after having served for most or all of their adult life and find it difficult to function without the structure they are used to. Some struggle with mental or physical illness which can make it difficult to sustain employment.
In 2012/13 128 veterans benefited from our specialist employment support. Alongside our employment support grants scheme, we have introduced three new employment services to help veterans with mental health issues, disabilities and criminal convictions:
Working with the charity SAMH we set up Employ-Able, a service to help veterans with mental health issues get into work. It aims to remove barriers, develop skills and set goals, taking the form of one-to-one and group work sessions. Launched in November 2012, 40 veterans have accessed the project.
In partnership with our sister charity, The Royal British Legion Industries, we brought the successful LifeWorks course to Scotland. The vocational assessment programme matches employment options with skills and mind-set and aims to provide veterans and their dependants with the help and guidance they need to get and maintain a civilian job.
“A massive thank you for everything you did to get me on the LifeWorks course. It was fantastic and went way beyond my expectations. I have left today with a CV to be proud of and I’m a lot more confident within myself. Thanks again.”
Criminal Convictions Disclosure Service
We believe everyone deserves a second chance in life if they have taken a wrong turn and we are working with APEX Scotland to improve the employment prospects of veterans with criminal convictions. Trained advisers help individuals identify career options and guide them through the application and interview process.
Employment Support Grants
The Employment Support Grants scheme is our longest-established employment service. It helps low-paid and unemployed veterans obtain qualifications or undergo retraining to improve their job prospects. In 2012/13 38 individuals received employment support grants to help them get on to new career paths.
Tailored support and funding
Providing financial assistance to veterans and their families is at the core of what we do. In 2012/13 we gave £580,000 to 1,200 people through our Immediate Needs Grants scheme, an increase of 9% on the previous year.
The level of assistance we provide varies from a few pounds to a few thousand pounds. The most common requests for financial help are for expenditure in the home. This can be helping a family set up in their first new home on civvy street, or providing essential items such as furniture and white goods to a veteran who has been given a local authority flat after a period of temporary homelessness following a relationship breakup. We have funded household repairs that would otherwise be too much for a single parent on a shoestring budget and we fund adaptations to tackle mobility issues, whether that’s installing a ramp at the home of a disabled veteran to enable him to go out with his family or arranging for a stairlift in a two-storey house so that an elderly couple can stay in their own home for longer.
“It is hard to put into words exactly what your help means to me – thank you seems inadequate. Because of your help I can and will move forward.”
Poppyscotland recognises that short breaks play a significant role in reducing stress and boosting health. Working with our colleagues in The Royal British Legion, we deliver a Poppy Breaks service, focusing on respite, family and adventure breaks.
– Respite breaks are for serving or ex-Servicemen, women and/or their dependants who may be getting over a life-changing event such as a bereavement or a stay in hospital. They are also suitable for people who simply have not had a holiday in a while or who are lonely or isolated.
– Family breaks are for disadvantaged families where, for example, there is a one-parent family, one parent is caring for a disabled partner or the family is on a low income.
– Adventure breaks are for teenage children, where, for example, they have not had a holiday for a few years or their parent is currently serving on operations.
Last year over 60 people accessed Poppy Breaks, a significant increase on previous years.
“It was a wonderful family holiday that has given us a great high after a very low year.”
Grants to organisations
A significant part of our work is supporting specialist organisations who provide support to our mutual client group. Our flexible approach to awarding grants means that we can direct our funding to where it will make the greatest impact. In 2013 we awarded grants in excess of £600,000 to 18 organisations that deliver services for veterans. The range of support covered areas such as mental health, lifestyle management, specialist employment advice, housing support, holistic advice and computer packages for disadvantaged families. Without our funding, many of these projects would simply not have happened.
“This grant is a significant boost to the funds for our supported accommodation project in Glasgow. Poppyscotland’s support will help to provide the high quality accommodation and facilities needed to achieve our joint aim of helping veterans make a successful transition to stable, fulfilling civilian lives.”