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Issue:- 24 October 2014

Highlighting the plight of homeless ex-Forces as new campaign aims to turn the #LightsOnForVeterans

ONE of the country’s largest housing associations which specialises in providing support for homeless Veterans, has launched a new campaign to put the #LightsOnForVeterans. The campaign is part of Riverside housing’s response to over 1000 enquiries annually from Veterans in housing need, and comes just as the nation prepares to turn its clocks back and put lights on earlier in the evenings.

During 2014 Riverside has already helped over 1,000 Veterans and their autumn survey has shown there are 35% more in the 30 to 50 age range who need intensive support, compared to those under 30. Younger Veterans have benefitted from more focused national support as part of Government initiatives since 2011 aimed at supporting younger people.

Riverside’s Executive Director of Care and Support, Leanne Hearne, said:- “During such an important commemoration year when we have been reminded of how the Lights Went Out all over Europe in 1914 we are making a firm commitment to continue expanding our support for Veterans, particularly older ex-Servicemen and women who can find it hard to return to civilian life after serving many years in the Armed Forces. Riverside runs the country’s main housing advice and accommodation helpline for homeless Veterans and this gives us a unique insight into the challenges they face. Over the last three years we have seen a marked increase in older Veterans needing our specialist housing and therapeutic support services.  This summer we signed up to the national Armed Forces Corporate Covenant and as a next step Riverside staff will be standing alongside some of the Veterans currently using our services, retired representatives from those who served in World War II and those still currently serving their country, in order to make a commitment to continue to support them. We will be launching an online campaign to put the #LightsOnForVeterans and make sure every Veteran who faces homelessness knows where to receive help if they need it.”

Riverside’s specialist support for Veterans started in 2000 when it set up a groundbreaking partnership with the Ministry of Defence to provide housing advice and support to the small proportion of Veterans who struggle to make the transition back into civilian life when they leave the Armed Forces. Each year Riverside now supports around 1,200 Veterans including in specialist temporary housing and enterprise centres, which have been set up and run by staff who themselves come from an Armed Forces background.

Over 40% of Veterans in their specialist centres have mental health problems, with a total of 26% discharged from the Armed Forces on medical grounds. Riverside conducted a survey in September 2014 which highlighted the increasing plight and need levels of older Veterans between 30 and 50 years.

TheLights On For Veteranscampaign is supported by soldiers from the 2nd Battalion the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment who showed their support for ex-servicemen and women at risk of homelessness. The Light Role Infantry Battalion is trained to conduct offensive and defensive combat operations in all types of terrain, from built up areas to the jungle.

Regimental Sergeant Major S T McDermott, said:- “Our soldiers and officers have to be fit, robust and determined. It might be strange to think a soldier back from Afghanistan could end up on the streets, but not everyone adjusts easily to Civvy Street. Vulnerability is hard to admit for people trained to face up to tough situations so we felt it important to visibly support these lifeline services. It could easily be one of us facing difficulties next.”

The Light Role Infantry Battalion recruits from the North West of England with most members of the Battalion coming from Cumbria, Lancashire, Greater Manchester and Merseyside.

On August 4, the nation was invited to participate inLights Off and plunge into darkness and light a single candle for a shared moment of reflection to mark the day Britain entered World War I and the lamps went out over Europe.

Statistics from the Ministry of Defence in 2014 show that up to 11,000 serving members of the military have been diagnosed with mental health conditions, including PTSD and depression. These figures do not take into account the substantial number of those who suffer mental illnesses after leaving the Services.

Leanne added:- “The majority of Veterans adjust to civilian life successfully, but for some it can be daunting, so Riverside is working hard with the Ministry of Defence to provide the services and support to meet this need including a new specialist development for Veterans in Colchester which was announced in the summer.”

Woolton scoops gold award

WOOLTON village has once again proved its fabulous floral displays are a cut above the rest. Judges from the National Royal Horticultural Society gathered last night to celebrate horticulture’s highest achievers from across the country.  Woolton village represented the North West and was awarded a gold medal in the ‘Champion of Champions’ category, fighting off fierce competition from Ulster, London and Scotland with the overall winning title going to Shrewsbury.  The team were highly commended for their efforts, which included a bed of poppies surrounding a sculpture of a soldier to commemorate the start of World War One. Woolton In Bloom chairwoman Barbara Mace, said:- "We are absolutely delighted with this latest achievement, it is the pinnacle of all our hard work and dedication which we started way back in 2001.  This is one of many successes for everyone involved in Woolton in Bloom and it could not have been done without the fantastic team of volunteers.  I hope this win can spur us on to keep creating beautiful and eye catching floral displays for residents and visitors to enjoy year after year.”

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