Mental health is the top priority at Forgotten Veterans UK
FVUK is a Portsmouth based charity, supporting those serving in the armed forces, veterans and their families nationally
At Historic England’s Fort Cumberland site (Grade II listed 18th c. artillery fortification and a Scheduled Monument), the local section of the charity Forgotten Veterans utilised the potential of the fabulous location and the local military heritage to build a Respite Centre for Veterans and their families – a unique facility that has helped hundreds of veterans since its establishment in 2018.
Forgotten Veterans UK (FVUK) is a Portsmouth based charity, supporting those currently serving in the armed forces, veterans and their families nationally and within the PO1 to PO6 postcode areas.
At Fort Cumberland, FVUK have leased and successfully restored several historic casemates, turning them into fully functioning premises of the respite centre. The centre now also has its own social prescriber and receives referrals from veterans and other local communities in need.
The charity is run almost entirely by volunteers, with 100% of donations received being spent on providing services and support for clients. In March 2021, funding for 1 year was provided by NHS England to pay for the employment of both a Health & Social Care Apprentice and a full-time social prescriber, providing support specifically within the PO1 to PO6 postcode area.
The charity is proud to be part of the Military Mental Health Alliance and the NHS Healthcare Service for the Armed Forces Community. It is actively involved in the delivery of support within the NHS Veterans’ Mental Health High Intensity Service (HIS) pathfinders, in conjunction with the Crisis Pathway, and with other local sources of mental health support.
[h2] Person-centred support for veterans
Referrals to our service can come from a number of sources, including the local authority, inclusion services, the hospital (especially the mental health team and the drug/alcohol management team), the police and probation service, amongst others. Many individuals are encouraged to contact us by friends and fellow veterans, but they can also self-refer.
Locally, the charity works alongside organisations such as the Society of St James for Inclusion Services and Veterans Outreach Support for mental health diagnoses and support. We also engage with the local community. Last year, we held a camp for local adults with learning disabilities and built flower bed containers for local communal gardens.
FVUK offers a wide range of holistic and person-centred support to veterans. We take the view that initially helping clients tackle the practical problems they face will ultimately be of benefit to their overall mental health.
[h2] Practical support
On the practical side, we provide everything from emergency food parcels and utility top-ups to furnishings or white goods and new clothes. We help with making benefit claims or appeals, applications for housing and we signpost veterans to other specialist sources of support or specific service charities when necessary.
Overall, the main aim of FVUK is to provide support for those with mental health issues. Many of our clients experience depression and anxiety, with a substantial number dealing with PTSD or other complex mental health issues. This support is offered in a variety of ways:
- Peer support. Many veterans find it hard to relate to civilians and civilian life, so the opportunity to spend time here at the Fort in the company of other veterans provides them with the opportunity to engage with like-minded individuals and the ‘banter’ they miss so much. They are welcome to drop in any Monday to Friday between 09.30 and 16.30 for coffee and a chat.
- Using part of the old moat, and our facilities within Fort Cumberland, FVUK holds Crisis and Basha camps where Veterans can stay, and, weather permitting, camp out for a few days respite, along with intensive peer support.
- Crisis camp occurs when immediate intensive support is needed as there is a risk to life. We have a Quick Reaction Force which will travel anywhere in the UK in response when such a call comes in. The person in distress is brought to the Fort where they spend 3 or 4 nights with intensive 24/7 peer support.
- When veterans come to Fort Cumberland for a Crisis or Basha camp, sleeping bags, camp cots and all meals for the duration of their stay are provided free of charge.
Additional support for FVUK clients can be provided by a Lifestyle Coach and Clinical Hypnotherapist, if appropriate. The charity also works closely with a local pastor and the Salvation Army to provide spiritual support.
The charity does not use a rigid appointment system, so the Care Support Team is able to spend as much time as it takes with an individual.
The speed at which we can respond to an individual in crisis can be measured in minutes rather than days. There is no doubt in our minds that this is an important factor in helping to ensure their safety and wellbeing.
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