Families of Welsh Armed Forces veterans struggling to cope with civilian life are to get support from a new service being launched by Barnardo’s Cymru.
The UK’s largest children’s charity will be providing therapeutic and practical support for families of veterans finding it hard to adjust in the community, caught in the Criminal Justice System, or at risk of falling into crime.
The Families of Veterans’ Support Service (FVSS) will be launched today at 12.30pm at the Senedd, Cardiff Bay with Carl Sargeant, Welsh Government Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children, and Melloney Poole, head of the Armed Forces Covenant Fund which has provided £433,000 to fund the project.
The Valley Military Wives Choir have travelled from Anglesey to provide the music.
The launch of the new service follows research by the Royal British Legion which shows that working age veterans are at greater risk of depression, chronic health conditions and poverty and are also more likely to have unpaid caring responsibilities.
Research has also found that those who experienced difficulties – such as school expulsion or having parents with drug or alcohol problems – before entering the military are more likely to be experiencing difficulties now.
Dr Sam Clutton, assistant director of policy for Barnardo’s Cymru, said: “Service families are often faced with unique challenges ranging from family members returning home with a combat injury or illness such as post traumatic stress disorder, to children having to adapt to a succession of new schools, disrupting their education and limiting their opportunities to sustain long term friendships.
“During their time in the Services there is a shared understanding of the issues that are faced by veterans and formal and informal support networks are in place, but on leaving the Forces these are often lost.”
The charity has been working with the Royal British Legion and other Forces’ charities, Integrated Offender Management Cymru and South Wales Police to develop a consistent pathway that ensures veterans and their families can access Barnardo’s services to address multiple needs.
Barnardo’s Cymru will also be working with the Endeavour veterans’ wing in HMP Parc Prison, Pencoed and the veterans’ wing at the new HMP Berwyn, Wrexham to identify and offer support to families who need extra help when the veteran is serving a prison sentence.
Children with a parent in prison often struggle in school and can feel a sense of loss. They are also more likely to end up in the criminal justice system themselves and suffer from mental health issues.
The service will promote a whole family approach with an emphasis on early intervention where specific multiple support needs have been identified to build resiliance in children and their families.
Ant Metcalfe, Wales area manager of the Royal British Legion, said: ‘The Armed Forces community in Wales make a huge contribution to the nation as a whole and have a wealth of skills and knowledge that can and do, provide huge benefits to our communities.
“Although the majority of Armed Forces personnel will transition well into civilian life, some will encounter difficulties, and it is essential the right support is in place for them and for their families. This service will provide welcome support for families who may have a wide range of support needs and we look forward to building on our joint working with Barnardo’s Cymru and the other partners.”
FVSS will be launched at the Senedd, Cardiff Bay on Thursday, February 9 at 12.30pm.
For further information contact Barnardo’s Cymru media and communications manager Margaret O’Reilly on 029 2043 6229/07827 977830.
Helen Cottrell knows exactly how difficult life can be for the families of veterans.
Her husband Richard who joined the Army as a teenager left the Royal Welsh in 2012 hoping to move into close protection work. But finding it difficult to get regular employment he fell into depression and suffered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Things became so bad that he considered killing himself.
Helen found the stress of caring for him and her daughter who has special educational needs overwhelming and began suffering from depression herself.
“I was at breaking point. I had no one to talk to and explain that I needed help. Not knowing what was available or how to get help were the hardest things. Without the intervention from Barnardo’s Cymru I don’t know where things would have