A new project offering support for the ex-service community and their families in Carlisle and Eden has been officially launched.
The project called “Forces Link” which started in July is initially a 12-month funded project supported by Cumbria CVS, The Armed Forces Covenant Small Grants Fund, Carlisle City Council, Eden District Council and Cumbria County Council’s Local Committees for Carlisle and Eden.
It is being coordinated by Richie Hinson, an Army veteran who moved to Carlisle after he left the forces in 2009. Richie said:
“My role is to work with local and national organisations to help improve local support for the ex-service community, through coordinating services across Carlisle and Eden. Having served eight years in the British Army with operational tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, I feel that I have a good understanding of the ex-service community.
“Everyone’s personal situation is different, but we all have many shared experiences that make it a bit easier to connect. Since leaving the Army, I have accessed some great support for mental health and employment issues, but I have also spoken to others who have not been so fortunate and have not been able to find or access the services they need. I will be meeting members of the ex-service community through breakfast and lunch clubs, association meetings, through support services and by using social media to inform people about the support available in our area and inviting them to get in touch with me if they have ideas or thoughts about what support is like in Cumbria.
“I’ve already had some great meetings with partner organisations and people coming forward to offer services. I’m really looking forward to working with the local ex-service community, local businesses and service providers to help create greater opportunities and support here in Cumbria.”
In the initial months, Richie has been meeting with a variety of organisations in the area to discuss how they can work together around the project’s priority areas which are: transition and employment, referrals and information sharing, overcoming geographical barriers and awareness of support and encouraging people to access it. There has been a very positive response and a real enthusiasm to support the ex-service community.
Through attending initial association meetings, lunch and breakfast clubs, Richie has been able to pass on information and opportunities to the ex-service community and has already helped some individuals in finding the right support for them. These meetings have been beneficial, in speaking to veterans to find out what they think of current services and what ideally they would like to see. Involving the community is a key part of the project which will help to address their needs.
Early in August, Forces Link Carlisle and Eden hosted the Surrey County Council ‘Forces Connect’ team who delivered training to explore the aim of the Armed Forces Covenant and promoting a greater understanding and awareness of the issues affecting the Ex-Service Community. The training encouraged organisations to ask ‘have you served?’ so they can then provide people with information about the specific support which is available. More than 50 people attended including District and County Council Armed Forces Champions, Cumbria Police, Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service, The DWP, local NHS services and Armed Forces support groups. Work is ongoing to add local information to a Forces Connect mobile phone App which is free to download and provides information on Armed Forces support services available. It is hoped that this will be a positive step in addressing social isolation within the ex-services community by sharing information with those even in the most rural areas of Cumbria.
If you would like any further information on the project, whether it be finding out dates for breakfast or lunch clubs, volunteering, offering a service or opportunity or information on support available, please contact Richie Hinson, Forces Link Coordinator (Carlisle and Eden) at Cumbria CVS on 01768 800350 or 07458050141, email [email protected] or through Facebook and Twitter @ForcesLink
Councillors Helen Fearon and Val Tarbitt, Cumbria County Council’s Armed Forces Champions for Eden and Carlisle said: “We are delighted that the county council is able to support the CVS to improve the delivery of support services to the community of ex-Armed Forces personnel in Eden and Carlisle. Working alongside local partners, including Eden District Council, Carlisle City Council and the CVS, the £5,000 grant from Cumbria County Council’s Local Committees for Eden and Carlisle will contribute towards an integrated, sustainable, accessible and well promoted service that meets the needs of ex-service men and women and their families. This is a fantastic example of working in partnership with other organisations to achieve an improved service and quality of life for ex-service men and women in Cumbria.”
Carlisle City Cllr Elizabeth Mallinson, Portfolio holder for Communities, Health and Wellbeing said: “As Carlisle City Council’s Armed Forces Champion I am delighted to see this that this fantastic project is now underway and has appointed Richie as the project co-ordinator. Richie is taking great strides forward and it’s great to see the project develop. It’s already providing benefits to our Armed Forces community. We’re pleased to be a partner in this valuable initiative.”
Councillor John Thompson, Eden District Council’s Armed Forces Champion said: “Eden District Council is very pleased to be a partner in this very worthwhile project. We have been working with partners for a while to help this come to fruition and are confident that the project will help to improve links between support organisations and members of our ex-service community. We need to ensure that those who have served are aware of the range of support, services, opportunities and options that are there for them in what can be a very difficult time transitioning to civilian life.”