Making sure ex-Service men, women and families get the support they need

Before TimeBank I worked in youth volunteering and the one thing I remember clearly about those times is the number of networking meetings and events I was invited to – far too many to attend them all.

Fast forward a few years to when I started here on the Shoulder to Shoulder project and the situation couldn’t be more different. In the early days I felt maybe I just wasn’t “in with the right crowd” or maybe people didn’t know about us so we just weren’t invited.  

But months ticked by and still no sign of an opportunity to sit in a room in Birmingham with all the other organisations involved in working with veterans and families and network. So it was clearly time to set to and organise one myself!

As a part-time worker it is hard to meet with all the necessary key players in the sector and maintain that relationship – it can be a full-time job in itself. I am passionate that our relatively small project, compared to the big boys like Combat Stress and Royal British Legion, is remembered.  

I want agencies to think of us when a veteran or family needs support. A good number of agencies attend our monthly Veterans Drop-In but I believe that time is to support those ex-Service men, women and families who come along and to keep them informed. It should be about putting the veterans or family members first so they feel supported when they walk back out the door.

So I wanted to ensure Shoulder to Shoulder was on the map in and around Birmingham. We also wanted to hear about what everyone else was doing so we knew what services to signpost our veterans and families to.  We wanted to offer a one stop shop to veterans and their families. As a result of this the Veteran and Families Roadshow was created.

We organised the Roadshow in March and had such a positive response from organisations wanting to attend and make sure veterans and their families knew about the services they could offer.  All the information stands were snapped up by military and support charities – we covered housing, welfare, volunteering, employment, peer support and general mental health support services. The organisations included Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, Combat Stress, Help for Heroes, Royal British Legion, The Poppy Factory and SIFA Fireside to name a few.

Helen Walker, TimeBank Chief Executive, opened the event, highlighting our passion for partnership working:  “Today is really about us working together with a common aim to support our Service men, women and their families in the best possible way we can by recognising one another’s strengths and ensuring that we cross refer and maximise support to our beneficiaries.”

We received a great deal of positive comments from organisations that attended including:

“We were able to network with new and existing partners, and met potential new clients who we can support with employment needs,” Poppy Factory

“Thanks ever so much for having Rewards for Forces yesterday - it really was a great event! I found it so useful to be able to speak to different organisations that I had never heard of previously. I really benefited from networking with the charities to see how we can help promote them to our members so it definitely was a success!” Reward for Forces

I certainly feel that despite being a relatively small project we can throw a decent punch! I hope we are on the map and people across the city and surrounding areas are able to find out about us through various avenues but essentially through the other fantastic support organisations out there.