Armed forces champion secures £15,000 funding to support Mansfield veterans


Councillor Sean McCallum presented a motion to Mansfield District Council to establish an Armed Forces Support Fund, which was unanimously approved.

The fund will be used to provide crisis support, to provide a hub which will be a one stop shop for assistance, to support the Armed Forces Covenant, and to support impoverished children in partnership with cadet organisations.

Coun McCallum, an Iraq veteran and an Armed Forces champion said: "£15,000 may not seem like a lot of money, but we can do an awful lot with it. We are delighted we've secured the funding, we are leading the way and hoping that other authorities will follow."

He added: "We are really, really happy and and have received some wonderful messages of support."

Highlighting the importance of early crisis intervention for veterans, Coun McCallum said: "A veteran can find themselves in crisis when mental health issues arise, you can find yourself in crisis by virtue of losing your job. Being in crisis is not typical of all soldiers, but some may have difficulties integrating into civilian life, and can spiral into a mental health crisis."

"The crisis fund will help us to provide small but important interventions. We can provide a bit of shopping for a veteran who hasn't got a penny, or some money for a phone call to a loved one that could make the difference between life and death. At people's lowest ebb, we show a bit of human kindness, and the first 24 to 72 hours of a crisis is the most important time to intervene."

Coun McCallum plans to set up a hub for veterans where they can access support and signposting to other services.

The hub will be run by other veterans that have volunteered their time to help.

Coun McCallum said: "The hub will be a place of peer support. Veterans will be able to speak to someone who understands in a way a civilian might not."

"There are other charities out there to help, but many don't offer early crisis intervention. It may take up to two weeks to provide support and it's vital to intervene early. There has been a definite rise in military suicides, and if we can intervene early, then the opportunity for someone to get to a suicidal stage is smaller."

Mayor Kate Allsop highlighted how the council already supports veterans and their families, working in partnership with, among others, the Royal British Legion, and Armed Forces charities SAFFA and Combat Stress.

Mrs Allsop told the councillors that the authority had 12 current applications for members of the Forces community and had rehoused 11 applicants from this group in the past 12 months. Various council services had also supported a number of veterans, most suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Mrs Allsop said: "A recent example is a veteran in temporary accommodation who had PTSD and was supported by staff predominantly by providing emotional support, listening to him and liaising with relevant agencies.

"This gentleman felt a beaten man, but with the inter-agency support provided and co-ordinated by the team, he is now settled in a new flat."

Mrs Allsop also highlighted the work of its new Community Garden project on Shaftesbury Avenue, Bull Farm, which has been supported by Cllr Sonya Ward, as a way of helping often socially isolated veterans with mental health problems.

She said: "It is commonly accepted that men find it more difficult to talk about their problems, particularly veterans and those suffering with PTSD. The aim of the community garden is to offer social interaction, skill-sharing and informal learning to provide purpose and achievement in a safe, friendly and inclusive environment."