Supporting veterans throughout the pandemic

Five people stand in a line outside in front of SSFA covered stand. Three wear SSFA teeshirts - one wears a SSFA sashSSFA (SOLDIERS, SAILORS FAMILIES ASSOCIATION) staff and volunteers

This post has been key to the sustainability of SSAFA in North Somerset during Covid.

Lorna Muffet – SSAFA

In April 2020 we awarded SSAFA Weston £5,000 through the North Somerset Older People’s Community Grant Programme. The grant, made possible by the St Monica’s Trust together with Quartet, helped them support elderly North Somerset veterans and their families facing poverty and disadvantage.

SSAFA provide lifelong support to those who are serving or have served in the British Army, Royal Navy, Royal Marines or the Royal Air Force. It also supports their families.

Financial assistance for veterans

A key part of their offer is financial assistance. This helps meet the needs of people living with disabilities, poor mental health, long-term health conditions, poverty, debt or isolation.

This helps elderly, isolated and vulnerable North Somerset people by providing financial support towards:

  • greater independence e.g. purchase of a mobility scooter
  • more appropriate accommodation e.g. supporting care costs, more affordable heating, improved security
  • improved health e.g. money towards transport costs for medical appointments
  • greater dignity in later life e.g. tackling priority debt and poverty, helping cover home adaptions.

Responding to the pandemic

In April 2019 a previous Quartet grant allowed SSAFA to employ Paul Denovan, pictured above right, as the SSAFA North Somerset Coordinator. He brought existing links in the North Somerset military community as a Royal British Legion volunteer and ex-naval Commander. These contacts developed into valuable opportunities to speak to groups, organisations and individuals about volunteering for SSAFA. With higher volunteer numbers and having cleared their waiting list of cases, they were keen to identify more vulnerable, elderly and isolated veterans for support.

But then the pandemic hit. And it soon became clear that they wouldn’t be able to visit groups as planned. So they pivoted their services, and used the funding to cover the salary of the North Somerset Coordinator. This helped the group continue to offer support throughout lockdown, albeit in a different way.

Improvise, adapt – and overcome

Lorna Muffett from SSAFA Weston says:

“We had to adapt the way we worked this year. The key part of the SSAFA service is volunteers conducting home visits with clients. We haven’t been able to do that. However thanks to Quartet funding Paul’s post, he’s been the first point of contact for SSAFA in North Somerset.

“He’s been able to signpost clients and advise on the best ways to access help during Covid. He’s supported volunteers to use technology so they can continue to help clients. Weekly on-line meetings with interesting speakers helped keep the team motivated and engaged.

“Most of our volunteers are older people with military connections. Paul has made regular contact with every volunteer to ensure they were well, had all they needed and were coping with lockdown.

“SSAFA furloughed many staff and/or reduced staff hours, however with Paul’s ring-fenced funding he ensured the service kept running. Thanks to this funding our volunteers were able to continue to help clients.”

Finding new ways to offer services, despite restrictions

As a result of the Covid restrictions Paul changed to working remotely. This inevitably limited their plans.

Lorna explains: “However it’s been remarkable to see the commitment and determination of Paul and the volunteers. They’ve found new ways to offer our services to clients that adhere to the government restrictions.

“I cannot underestimate the value of this grant during Covid and how instrumental it’s been in ensuring we still have a service 12 months later.”

The funding came through the St Monica Trust and the Biddle Trust Fund held with Quartet Community Foundation.

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