Our new mobile Veterans Outreach Support service deployed on its first outing yesterday to a sunny and very hot Weston Super Mare.  A huge thank you to the Armed Forces Covenant Trust Fund for their grant in making this endeavour possible and a similarly huge thank you to Forces Connect South West the local authority consortium for their support in the development of the outreach service. 

Having made its debut at the Salisbury Armed Forces Day National Event promoting the new service, where several direct requests for assistance were received and dealt with.  This inaugural deployment was also an ideal opportunity to test out the logistics and partnering of a deployment and after getting onto the piazza at Italian Gardens, sorting the power supply out we were up and running from 1100 hrs.  Supported by North Somerset Council Covenant officer, Garry Hawkes and local representatives from SSAFA, RBL, The Warrior Programme and the RAF Association, the day was then a blur of constant engagement with enquiries about the van, the service and the Covenant. 

These innocuous conversations leading to needs being raised and assistance or advice offered.  In our first day of service, there was contact with 25 mainly but not exclusively veterans, many who had not heard of the Covenant, Veterans Gateway or even the Breakfast Club movement.  For most a leaflet and a little information about a support website was enough, for others a little more depth in referral was required, where as for one individual his passing the outreach van provided the moment for him to reach out and say that he was in crisis and needed help.  He is now being supported.

Twenty-five is not a huge number, when there are many more in need, but for day one it is a good start.  It is 25 more that on passing our outreach van and stopping to chat are aware of the Covenant, are aware of the support that is available; and are aware that local authorities and military charities are working together.  

The outreach programme will continue to develop across the south west with its partners to establish locations to deploy and to build up an intelligence picture of where outreach will be most needed.  At 9000 square miles that is a lot of territory to cover but bringing together established partnerships and those to be developed with people, networks and organisations yet to connect with makes it possible.  Our service has started to make a difference.