Demand for assistance rises in Angus

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THE DUNDEE and Angus Branch of the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA) Forces Help have revealed that demand for assistance in Dundee and Angus doubled in 2010.

From their base in Dundee’s Oliver Barracks, their 25 caseworkers travel over Angus and Dundee to see ex-service people and their families who require assistance. They handled 200 cases of hardship in 2010 up from 100 in 2009. Already this year, there are 77 cases on their books and are anticipating that 2011 will see a record demand for their help.

At their annual general meeting in Dundee City Chambers on Tuesday, April 12, the SSAFA thanked the volunteer case workers who have seen their workload rise dramatically.

Col Jake Hensman, OBE DL, is chairman is the Dundee and Angus branch. A former Royal Marine, he is a tireless campaigner for SSAFA, which provides assistance to anyone who has served even a single day in the armed forces. Crucially they will also help the families of service personnel. There is no age limit to when they will help, and no qualifying time for serving.

Col Hensman said: “Since Afghanistan, the military has had an extremely high profile and I think the message is getting through that there are organisations out there that can help ex-service personnel and their families.”

He cites two of the major issues his case workers deal with are actually fairly basic – housing and debt.

He continued: “A serviceman or woman coming to the end of their time may wish to return to their home town. But if they haven’t lived there for a while, they will have no points for a council house, so they go to the end of the queue. And if they have always lived in barrack accommodation, then they will have no carpets, furniture, even a bed.”

And it isn’t simply supporting a soldier who is newly out of the army. Last year, they helped an elderly gentleman who wasn’t able to get out and about, but had purchased a mobility scooter. Unfortunately the council hadn’t built a ramp, so he was unable to use it. SSAFA arranged for a ramp to be built to help the old soldier regain some independence.

They assisted another ex-serviceman who was suffering from the early affects of Alzheimers by helping him get more suitable accommodation and support for his illness. They helped a widow get her son into the military school in Dunblane.

Col Hensman said: “We are continually busy with a wide variety of cases. The Army may ask us to call on the family of a serving soldier who is worried that his mother or partner is unwell and recommend whether he needs to be recalled from service or a widow may need help with her pension arrangements.

“Additionally we are now an integral part of the recovery pathway for troops returning from Afghanistan. Believe me, if I thought for one second that we weren’t required, we wouldn’t be here.”

Every penny that SSAFA raise in Dundee and Angus is used in Dundee and Angus. This enables the organisation to keep close links on the ground.

With this year being the 60th anniversary of the Korean conflict, and with so many of the Black Watch, both regulars and national servicemen having served their country there, the need shows no signs of diminishing.