The Armed Forces charity SSAFA supports people at any stage of their military career, from those who have just signed up, to veterans, as well as their families. It was founded in 1885, and covers regulars and reserves in the Royal Navy, the Royal Marines, the British Army and the Royal Air Force.
The organisation has more than 4,000 trained volunteer caseworkers who meet with clients, assess their needs and then help them access whatever support is required. This could be finding suitable accommodation, sourcing white goods, paying for funeral costs, adapting a home for someone with mobility issues, or even helping somebody begin a new career.
Paul Barlow, who served for 24 years in the RAF, is the co-ordinator of SSAFA for Caterham and Tandridge:
“Sometimes we may need to link up with other military charities to get the full amount of financial assistance needed. In the case of one young ex-forces man, who had served in both Afghanistan and Iraq and was finding his post-military career difficult due to panic attacks, we collaborated with the Royal British Legion and Help For Heroes to get the finance in place to enable him to retrain as a mental first aid instructor.”
As well as practical support, SSAFA is also there for those suffering with mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder, something which affects many who have served in the military. They work closely with other specialist organisations, if necessary, to ensure their clients get the specific help they need.
Paul is keen to raise awareness of the work SSAFA does, so that everybody in Tandridge who could benefit does so. One of his caseworkers makes regular visits to the occupational therapy unit at Caterham Dene Hospital, and they have also done a talk to the social care team at Tandridge District Council.
He is grateful to those in the local community who raise money for SSAFA:
“The Red Lion, in Bletchingley, has held an annual fundraising night for us for around 15 years, on one occasion donating more than £7,000 to us. The landlady, Tracey Barker, was given an award by SSAFA’s Head Office, which was presented by the Duke of Kent. Money donated is a great lifeline to us: it allows us to help many people but also, when we’re seeking funds from other charities we can offer to share the cost with them.”
Find out more: ssafa.org.uk. If you need urgent help, contact FORCESLINE on 0800 2606767, or Paul Barlow on 01883 330566.