As the clocks go forward, we’re looking back at all that Veterans Outreach Support has achieved in the year so far. We believe it’s been a strong start to 2023, with lots of positive feedback from our service users and a handful of exceptional grants and awards.
Read on for exactly what we’ve gotten up to, from events and activities to promising partnerships, all in support of local veteran mental health and community-building.
57 Social Meet-Ups for Veterans
Our social groups are a great way to spend some fun and casual time among peers in the local veteran community- and we’ve hosted a LOT since January. We often get feedback from attendees about how nice it is to chat with people who ‘speak your language.’ It can really boost your mood!
“From no veteran connections when I first met them, they now feel part of something,” shared Lisa from the RAF Benevolent Fund after visiting friends at our Tea & Stickies social group. “If I could attend it every week I would. It’s such a lovely atmosphere.”
You yourself may also have joined us at our weekly ‘Tea & Stickies’ Tuesday social, or twice monthly at ‘Brew, Biscuits & Banter.’ We also hosted weekly meetups at The Crofton Club where veterans came together for ‘Brew, Butties & Banter,’ and weekly online ‘Brew & Banter’ sessions via Zoom.
Additionally, our Isle of Wight community got together at about 4 social meet-ups per month. From the Donkey Sanctuary to the Aviation Museum and Military Museum, veterans on the Isle of Wight have had some lovely days out so far this year. They even enjoyed a new meet-up location on the last Friday of each month: Tandem Tea Rooms in Brighstone.
These regular meetups in Portsmouth and the IOW (all 54 of them since January!) mean a lot to many of our members. We also continued our Mid-Month Musters once monthly at the Royal Maritime Club. That brings us to a grand total of 57 casual social events for veterans and their partners in the past three months alone.
“So good to meet up with good friends and meet new faces,” wrote one social group attendee on our Facebook page. “So beneficial – thank you to you all.”
Learn more about or social groups here: Veterans Outreach Support Social Groups
32 Activities to Boost Veteran Wellbeing
This quarter we had 32 activity sessions designed to improve veteran mental health and wellbeing. Some involved multiple installments, some were one-off activities or trips, some were brand new, and some were tried and true.
“The trips and events make a massive difference to my personal wellbeing and I am sure I can say that on behalf of the many other veterans and their families VOS supports,” one community member has shared, adding that it feels great to be “in a safe space with people you trust.”
We’re grateful to our activity facilitators for making this possible. Jan-March saw us join forces with:
- Bound By Veterans for book binding sessions,
- Paint & Chill Co. for painting activities,
- Independent Arts for crafting time on the Isle of Wight,
- Team Sport Gosport for indoor karting,
- Wight Apothecary for making candles, hand cream and body scrub,
- Pigsty Farm for beekeeping,
- James Mouland Ebru Studio for ebru painting,
- Snacks and Ladders for board gaming,
- Core Art Journaling for making journals with a creative twist,
- Boathouse4 for some high speed boat rides,
- SouthseaEyes for lino printing and card making.
Here are a few more thoughts about this quarter’s activities (in our members’ own words):
“We had a lovely time…We laughed lots and there was good camaraderie. Looking forward to the next one already.” – Skittles & Snorkers Attendee.
“Never painted before (except walls) it was very therapeutic, really enjoyed it. Thank you to everyone.” – Paint & Chill Attendee
“It was a fantastic session. It felt so good to attend my first F2F group event and there was a warm welcome from all.” – New VOS Member
“Thank you for a great evening at Go Sport Karting Gosport!! Was really fantastic!!!” – VOS Volunteer
“Thank you so much for a wonderful evening! Looking forward to the next one, we had such a laugh.” – IOW Board Game Night Attendee
“It was absolutely fabulous, great activity and great company- thank you VOS.” – Wight Apothecary Workshop Attendee
More great activities to come in April and beyond! Our upcoming activity schedule can be viewed here, and requests to sign up to any of the events can be sent to Wendy at email@example.com.
Providing Meaningful Welfare Support
On the welfare front, our team worked hard in all VOS delivery areas to help provide tailored welfare assistance while empowering service users with the resources they need to help themselves. We’re also seeing the development of good two-way, internal and external referral processes, from our own clinical and wellbeing staff to the NHS Op Courage.
Our new Welfare Officer, Mark Perryman, has quickly got into his stride, delivering successful outcomes against a steadily increasing demand. You can find him at the new VOS Welfare Desk at Drop-Ins or offering day to day delivery in the office/remotely.
Mark and our part-time welfare support, Jim Parker, have worked tirelessly on a wide range of issues, from simple queries to complex cases involving considerable input and liaison with delivery partners and external agencies. In recent months they’ve provided ongoing support on benefits, housing, and assisting veterans on police bail with challenges related to addictions.
If you’d like help navigating your own welfare needs, contact firstname.lastname@example.org, call our main office on 02392731767, or visit a drop-in…
Connecting Our Community with Drop-Ins & Outreach
This quarter saw more successful drop-ins at the Royal Maritime Club in Portsmouth and the Riverside Centre on the Isle of Wight. Our drop-ins are a perfect way to experience VOS camaraderie and take advantage of the many resources available locally. They also feature welfare help and clinical professionals who provide mental health support in private (one-on-one) for any who may need it.
The VOS team also did outreach in some new locations, including St. Catherine’s Church in Ventnor and the Emsworth Community Centre. About the Emsworth outreach, volunteer Chris Kimber wrote:
“This may be a tea and stickies or perhaps even a full-blooded Drop In style of gathering, time will tell…there’s much hope for growth from the seeds sown today so watch out for more reports and pictures in the coming weeks as the VOS in Emsworth alliance evolves.”
All in all, VOS got more than 20 new registrations joining our fold in this time. We also had more than 50 different veteran families returning to attend our drop-ins for help with their own mental health, wellbeing or welfare needs. VOS Isle of Wight had great success as well, welcoming 15-20 returners each month along with 21 total new registrations.
Learn more here: Veterans Outreach Support Drop-Ins.
Sharing Opportunities with Local Veterans in Portsmouth and IOW
In January, we helped to host a conference for the ‘Partnership in Mind’ charities (VPPP) that brought together many familiar faces from veteran resource providers in the South East. We had powerful presentations from four of the delivery partners, together with some robust questions and answer sessions. 35 delegates attended, with representation from all the delivery partners. Throughout the rest of Q1 2023, VPPP once again reported engagement with over 500 beneficiaries. For more on their work, click here.
This quarter saw a fair few job postings passed around our community, including ads for roles at Admiral Jellicoe House (a new care home in Portsmouth for Royal Navy and Royal Marines veterans), the New Forest Wildlife Park, the Royal Navy Benevolent Trust, Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust, and Headway Portsmouth & South East Hampshire.
We also hosted the Forces Employment Charity for an ‘Apprenticeship Live’ event at the RMC in early March. We pointed our users to new local resources like Make Gosport / Gosport Community Hub and free tickets to watch Royal Navy Football Association/RAF inter-service football games. Many participated in #TimeToTalkDay for mental health and applauded our female community members on International Women’s Day. Perhaps most importantly, many of our veterans participated in the ONS Veteran’s Survey and had their voices heard on key issues relating to our quality of life.
Celebrating Grants, Awards, and Veterans Outreach Support in the News
In February, we announced an incredibly generous grant from Greenwich Hospital. This grant of £150,000 will go directly toward the cost of providing clinical services. With this grant, VOS will be able to continue working to improve the mental health, wellbeing and resilience of veterans, serving personnel and their partners through the provision of clinical support. We are so grateful!
The Veterans Foundation also kindly donated funds to help us continue our clinical support in the form of cognitive, behavioural and emotional wellbeing therapies or treatments. You can enter their lottery and support VOS and the Veterans Foundation by using this link.
We also received a truly meaningful grant from Hampshire & Isle of Wight Community Foundation which will go towards the provision of our wellbeing activities for local veterans and their family members. Thank you HIWCF for helping us to improve veterans’ lives with accessible, well-supported fun!
On the Isle of Wight in March, Footprint Trust helped facilitate a fantastic donation of 12 Ninja brand air fryers along with a how-to-use workshop and 12 grocery vouchers worth £100 each. Participants have now received their vouchers and air fryers and couldn’t be more satisfied with the quality and usefulness of this donation. In short, they’re chuffed and so are we.
Additionally, VOS was named an Associate Partner of Shaping Portsmouth this quarter. It’s an organisation that provides dedicated support and advice to the education/community/business sectors and runs lots of great programmes. We are delighted to be an Associate Partner of Shaping Portsmouth and remain grateful for their support.
Our CEO Ian Millen was also featured in a ‘Third Sector’ article about the importance of social media safety for charities. To read his thoughts and more about a new government guidance on responsible social media use for charities, follow this link.
We also wrote our own blog articles highlighting current issues, including one on COBSEO’s Drop-In Survey results. Read it here!
To wrap up our first quarter, VOS received the excellent news that we’ve been awarded COBSEO’s Veterans Mental Health Awareness Standard (VMHAS). This Standard is granted to charities that meet a strict set of non-clinical mental health support benchmarks. Some words from Ian about what this recognition means to us:
You can find more quotes from VOS staff about the VMHAS here.
And finally, a note from our CEO…….
“I hope that all those reading this article can see just how much VOS has delivered to our veterans and their families in the first three months of 2023, and this is not even the whole story as day to day delivery in our areas of welfare, wellbeing and clinical, continue outside of the many things reported above. We achieve all of this through the dedication of our core team of staff, our clinicians, our wonderful volunteers and our much valued delivery partners, all enabled by kind donors and grant makers – a real team effort that results in some wonderful outcomes, and lots of fun!!
Please do read our postings on the website www.vosuk.org and please continue to spread the word to others. A simple conversation could introduce someone in need to our services, especially the hidden, lost and lonely. All of our services are free to those who are eligible to use them, so let’s continue to make a difference together by reaching out to those in need. We are here for you and for them!”
– Ian Millen
Would you like to know more about any of the above? Have you joined us at an event yet in 2023? Reach out at the contact information below to share your thoughts.
VOS is here to support veterans from the UK Armed Forces service, the Merchant Navy, and their partners. If you know a veteran (from any time of service), please pass our details along. If you’re a veteran or partner and are thinking about getting in touch, we would love to hear from you. Call us on 02392 731 767, visit one of our drop-ins, or email email@example.com.