We’ve had a fantastic summer and start to autumn here at Veterans Outreach Support. As we continue to grow our community of local Armed Forces and Merchant Navy veterans, spouses, partners and carers, we’d like to take some time to showcase all the things that made this past quarter so great.
From well-reviewed wellbeing activities to meaningful clinical and welfare support and beyond, the Veterans Outreach Support team is proud to share details from July, August and September 2023.
Keep reading for more information about everything we’ve been up to. Don’t fancy reading it all? Scroll to the bottom of this page for a handy infographic with key stats and info from Q3 2023.
Dropping In and Reaching Out
Our Drop-Ins in both Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight each saw attendance grow from month to month. In July, 69 service users attended our Portsmouth Drop-In at our HQ in the Royal Maritime Hotel (RMH), including 51 returners and 18 newcomers. In August, 74 attended, including 54 returners and 20 newcomers. By September, these numbers climbed even higher: we welcomed 85 service users to our Portsmouth Drop-In, including 67 returners and 18 newcomers. Take a peek at the Portsmouth Drop-In experience via video here.
On the Isle of Wight, our quarter began with a humble 15 attendees at July’s Drop-In (all returners), followed by 17 attendees at August’s Drop-in (2 newcomers) and an impressive 27 attendees at September’s Drop-In (21 returners and 6 newcomers)! The Riverside Centre in Newport was abuzz with veterans, partners, spouses and carers enjoying camaraderie and accessing our resources on the spot. Catch some video footage of that drop-in in action here.
Our staff and volunteers brought VOS resources further afield as well, with ‘mini drop-ins’ in other areas around Hampshire and the IOW. Service users could see them doing outreach regularly in Gosport and Freshwater, and at special events like Isle of Wight Day, Ventnor Day, Collingwood Day, and ‘The Big Charity Bash’ at Fort Purbrook.
One of the most exciting pieces of outreach this quarter was our CEO’s appearance on ExpressFM Portsmouth. VOS CEO Ian Millen had the opportunity to tell ExpressFM listeners about what VOS does, how it’s grown since its founding, and what it has to offer.
“We’re there for all veterans, we’re there for veterans of all conflicts, but we’re also there for veterans who’ve never been in a conflict,” Ian said. “Anybody that’s served in the Armed Forces [or Merchant Navy] for a day is more than welcome at VOS. You don’t need to have a medal pinned to your chest.”
According to ExpressFM Portsmouth, the station has a loyal audience of 45,000 people across the region. We are so pleased that Ian’s welcoming message was heard by so many.
A Very Social Summer
At VOS we know that a casual chat over a cup of tea can change a life. These simple social connections can be lifelines, and the friendships that come from them can be some of the best ways to enrich our wellbeing. We offer weekly social groups in Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight with that in mind.
Some of our weekly social groups had record turn-out this quarter, including our Brew, Butties & Banter group that meets Thursdays at the Crofton Club. Check out one of the well-attended BB&Bs below:
Tea & Stickies also had a special quarter, celebrating the 5 Year Anniversary of their weekly meet-ups! We are so pleased that this casual hub has become such a reliable and well-loved space for our veteran community to visit for weekly social support. A very big THANK YOU goes out to the volunteers behind the success of these groups!
On the Isle of Wight, service users enjoyed the usual meet-ups in locations like the Wight Aviation Museum, Military and Heritage Museum in Cowes, Donkey Sanctuary in Wroxall, and Tandem Tea Rooms near Newport, and VOS IOW’s Tony had to organise additional meet-ups to meet demand (held at Pigsty Farm).
Some of our wellbeing activities were all about socialising, too- our monthly Craft & Chat sessions were a great opportunity for people to get together and connect while crafting, and Mid-Monthly Musters saw our community enjoying evenings at the Royal Maritime Hotel in great company.
We also got social on social media. If you’re not yet connected with VOS, join the fun on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. There we shared important information about Veteran ID Cards and Adjustment Passports for Service Leavers, various local awareness days and job opportunities, relevant surveys and questionnaires for veterans, and much more. We also helped drum up some votes for VOS Drop-In regular Jon (who supports our service users through OpCOURAGE with the NHS Foundation Trust) and his dog Baxter, who ended up winning their category of the national 2023 Soldiering On Awards. Well deserved- congratulations, Jon!
Wellbeing Activities by Land and Sea
Dozens of people attended Veterans Outreach Support wellbeing activities this quarter, and even more wanted to take part! We’ve identified that it can often be difficult for new registrants to have a chance at signing up before all the spaces are booked. For October and beyond, service users are now able to claim their places at wellbeing activities directly from the VOS website’s Wellbeing Page to help simplify the process.
We are also releasing the tickets to these activities all at once (the last Friday of each month for the month ahead), giving everyone advance warning of when they will become available, and encouraging regulars to wait and let new joiners take spaces first. We are hopeful that many new faces will be attending wellbeing activities in the coming months.
This past quarter saw attendees trying new things like abstract ‘gelli’ painting, pottery throwing with Fat Clay Pottery, smudge stick making, ceramics painting and yoga. Our singing group also grew in numbers. Many returned for familiar events like book binding with Bound by Veterans and lino printing with SouthSeaEyes.
Our paddle steamer day trip on PS Waverley was a great success, and you can read about it here. Isle of Wight members got to visit several great exhibits, including those at the Isle of Wight Bus and Coach Museum. Some of our service users also enjoyed a morning of sailing around Port Solent with the Gwennili Trust.
Clinical and Welfare Support for Veterans
This quarter, VOS celebrated 15 years of providing meaningful mental health support to the local veteran community. You can read about how our founders centred mental health when establishing Veterans Outreach Support here. The details are confidential, but we can share that many service users continue to come to our Clinical Manager and small team of mental health professionals for support.
Our welfare team offers confidential support as well. This quarter saw us helping and signposting service users (new and old) to the services they need, whether at Drop-In, in the office, by phone, or out in the community where our Welfare Officer spread the word about local veteran support needs.
Current events also shaped our welfare work this quarter: we focused on LGBT+ veterans following the release of Lord Etherton’s groundbreaking report, and offered pension help to members of our community on Pension Awareness Week.
Any local veterans seeking judgement-free help regarding their relationship to alcohol can read our blog and reach out for support anytime. If you’re a local veteran with questions or concerns about obtaining your own preserved military pension, please do read more about preserved pensions at the link below, or reach out to us at the office for support related to understanding and accessing your pension.
Funding and Financial News from VOS
VOS was very grateful to receive generous support in Q3 from various excellent organisations and members of our community.
We extend our sincere thanks to Queen Mary’s Roehampton Trust which contributed £12,000 to our running costs, with a particular focus on providing services for war-disabled veterans and their dependents.
Our gratitude also goes out to The Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity, which contributed £81,000 to support our ongoing delivery of welfare and wellbeing services. We are always proud to work alongside the RNRMC to support ex-seafarers in Hampshire, and enjoy taking every chance we get to support them.
This quarter the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust gave a £10,000 grant to VOS and Partnership in Mind (VPPPSE) designated to provide support for LGBT+ veterans. While VOS has always been an inclusive organisation, we are thrilled at the opportunity to provide dedicated support resources to this particular demographic. If you’re a local LGBT+ veteran, read about how we can help you here and let us know if you’d like to join our community for support.
Our last (and possibly most fun) donation came from Armed Forces veterans Andy Painting and Mark Powell, along with their friend David England, who took part in the ‘Screwball Rally’ charity drive. It’s an annual five-day European Rally through France, Belgium, Holland, Germany & Denmark in an old banger! The men completed the ride with a photo of Stanley in tow, raising hundreds of pounds for VOS, Head Up Charity, Jacob’s Well Care Centre, and We Remember Submariners along the way. Thank you, Andy, Mark and David!
For a quick overview of the information above, you may like to see it in infographic format:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.