New health programme launched to support Cornwall’s armed forces veterans and their families


A new ‘social prescribing’ programme has been launched in Cornwall aimed at supporting our armed forces community with their mental and physical wellbeing.

As part of the project, two Armed Forces Community Social Prescribing Link Workers (AFCSPLW) have been recruited to help veterans and their families access the right kind of help.

This can be anything from medical care, mental health support and community activities to help with housing, finances and employment.

 

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Having served in the armed forces themselves, the pair have first-hand experience of the difficulties and barriers veterans can face and are therefore ideally placed to provide advice and empathy.

The programme ran as a pilot for two years between 2021 and 2023, and successfully supported more than 250 people.

It was showcased at a special conference during the national Armed Forces Day event held in Falmouth last June when it received widespread praise.

The programme aligns with the Armed Forces Covenant in Cornwall which aims to ensure that those who serve or who have served in the armed forces, and their families, are treated fairly and that special consideration is appropriate in some cases.

Funding has now been secured to continue the programme for another three years, delivered by Active Plus and overseen by Public Health, Cornwall Council and the NHS Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Integrated Care Board.

Social prescribing is an approach that connects people to activities, groups, and services in their community to meet the practical, social and emotional needs that affect their health and wellbeing.

Cllr Dr Andy Virr, cabinet member for adults and public health at Cornwall Council, said:

“It is great news that we are able to continue funding this programme to support our veterans and their families here in Cornwall.

“Working with our partners across the health and social care system, we have pledged to offer more personalised care and social prescribing and this project proves how seriously we are taking this commitment. It also aligns closely with our mental health and suicide prevention strategies, which are a top priority for health and wellbeing services across our communities.”

Dr Richard Sharpe, Public Health Consultant at Cornwall Council, added:

“We are delighted that this new three-year scheme continues the success of the two-year ‘test and learn’ demonstrator project and will help take forward some of the actions and pledges made at the national 2023 National Armed Forces Community Conference.

“As well as supporting the armed forces community, the AFC SPLWs aim to work with professionals across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly and help more organisations become more veteran-aware.”

Dr Matthew Boulter, Associate Clinical Director for Armed Forces & Veterans, NHS Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Integrated Care Board, said:

“I am delighted that this sterling work to improve the health and wellbeing of our veterans is to continue. Cornwall has a high proportion of veterans and we are keen to ensure that no matter what their age, gender or ability is, those who have served our country have the support they need to live happy and healthy lives.

“Across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly we are supporting GP practices to become ‘veteran-friendly’ and to identify which of their patients have served in the armed forces. Our Integrated Care Board is also officially recognised as a veteran friendly organisation.”

Cornwall has one of the highest proportion of veterans (6.3%, 30,229 people) in the UK.

Exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, many are said to be struggling with social isolation as culturally they may not want to ask for help, may not always know where the help is and may already be struggling with physical or mental injury.

Veteran Royal Navy Submariner Cllr Louis Gardner, Cornwall Council Armed Forces and Veterans Champion and cabinet member for economy, said:

“This programme has already proved to be of huge benefit to veterans and I am delighted it is set to continue.

“Research shows that ex-service personnel are more likely to present with complex healthcare needs in comparison with the UK general population and around 60% of military personnel with mental health issues do not seek help.

“This is why projects like this are so important. Because the link workers are recruited from within the armed forces community they are able to provide the understanding and empathy necessary to help ex-service personnel and their families with a range of complex needs.”

Cllr Martyn Alvey, cabinet member for environment and climate change and an RAF veteran, added:

“Research has highlighted the vast physical and mental health inequalities experienced by the armed forces community so this programme is welcome and very much needed.

“Veterans often do not engage well with organisations that are not designed specifically for them and commonly will not access or engage with people who they feel do not understand what they have seen, done, and are currently going through.

“They get frustrated at having to tell their story repeatedly and being passed from organisation to organisation. They often ask for a single point of contact who could provide access to the right organisation at the right time in a layered or step by step manner, and this is exactly what the new link workers will be able to offer.”

Laura Truckle, Managing Director Active Plus, said:

"Active Plus is delighted to have been selected to continue this valuable service for the Armed Forces Community in Cornwall. Building on the success of the two-year test-and-learn demonstrator and 13 years of successfully working within the Armed Forces Community across the South West, Active Plus brings a host of skills and knowledge to this service. Having supported in excess of 7,000 participants to improve their confidence, motivation and self-worth we are passionate about the opportunities that this new funding creates, and the ways that the AFC can receive support that can lead to positive lasting change.

“We are lucky to employ two Armed Forces Veterans to fulfil the AFCSPLW roles, each of whom brings extensive and personal experience of service life and transition. Active Plus employees pride themselves on ‘helping ourselves by helping others’, a value that we stand by as the Armed Forces Community Social Prescribing service continues."

For more information visit the Active Plus website.

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