Helping our heroes – at home and online

With the Covid crisis throwing us all into challenging times, one of the silver linings of the situation is the way in which we’ve seen individuals, communities and organisations rally together to support each other and help get everyone through. For the charities offering practical and emotional support to our veterans, continuing to deliver vital regular services under lockdown restrictions has been key, whilst also responding to new requirements brought about by the pandemic.

One of these charities is Glasgow’s Helping Heroes (GHH), part of SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity. GHH is a holistic service for veterans with a drop-in centre in the city’s Govan area. The organisation provides practical support in areas such as housing, financial advice, benefits, employment and training, and health and wellbeing, offering guidance and linking clients with other organisations that can help. We caught up with Service Manager Rachel Tribble to hear more about how her team has adapted to continue offering first-class support during lockdown.

“Since the early days of lockdown in March, the team has been working from home, keeping in regular contact and providing support and assistance to clients through phone and email in place of face-to-face appointments. However, it became clear very early on that this was not meeting the needs of all of our clients.

“Some were not comfortable enough with the technology, while for others, the opportunity for social interaction was the main reason they would come to see us, popping into the drop-in centre for a chat. As well as the problem of isolation, lockdown had introduced other issues, such as access to food and medication.

“In response, we quickly established GHH on Wheels. Arnold Clark kindly gave us free car hire for the first eight weeks, which enabled us to get out and about in the community and check up on our clients. We provided them with mobile phones to help them stay connected, as well as hot meals, shopping and prescriptions.

Housing Peer Support Worker, Sally Stimson, in the GHH on Wheels car

“Going directly to their doors helped us identify problems we might not have been aware of, such as an older client who required assistance to charge the battery in his electric mobility scooter. One of our clients had recently suffered a stroke and so we dropped off loads of books to help keep him occupied, as well as a recipe book stand so he could read them comfortably.

“In addition to delivering practical support at home, we’ve been running our online Quarantine Club with more social media activity aimed at bringing the community together online through regular quizzes, chats and exercise classes.

“We’re not sure when we will be able to fully return to our normal operations, however there are definitely some aspects of our lockdown service that we’ll be taking forward. Issues such as mobility, mental health, finances and childcare can really impact people’s ability to come to us, so going to see our clients at their homes or offering support over video call can make such a difference.

“As lockdown eases, we do expect to see a surge in cases, with some of our clients sitting on problems that they don’t feel are important enough to raise when there are so many other things going on. We also know it can be easier for them to bring up issues when dropping-in at the centre for a chat, rather than specifically phoning up to ask for help.

“However we would always stress to any veteran or family member facing challenges that it is much easier for us to intervene at an earlier stage, and they should never hesitate to get in touch. We want any member of the community dealing with fallout from the pandemic to know we are here for them.”

If you live in the Glasgow area and need support with housing, employment or anything else give Glasgow’s Helping Heroes a call on 0141 276 7199. If you live outside of Glasgow you can contact SSAFA’s Forcesline on 0800 731 4880.