The Veterans’ Guide to Later Life in Scotland – out now

As we near UK Armed Forces Day (30 June) Age Scotland has launched a free advice guide for older veterans.

The Veterans’ Guide to Later Life in Scotland offers veterans a route map to embracing opportunities and overcoming challenges that later life can bring.  It’s available to download, and postal copies can be requested from the Age Scotland Helpline 0800 12 44 222 or by emailing publications@agescotland.org.uk.  Here’s a flavour of what it offers older veterans, their families and professionals working with and for them.

Being treated fairly

Did you know that each council and health board in Scotland has signed a promise to every veteran?  Known as the Armed Forces Covenant this says you “should face no disadvantage compared to other citizens” and that “special consideration is appropriate in some cases, especially for those who have given most such as the injured and bereaved.”

Keeping well

Did you know that veterans are entitled to priority NHS treatment for health problems caused or made worse by military service? That means they should be seen more quickly than someone on the same waiting list who has the same level of clinical need.  There are NHS Veterans Champions you can speak to if you feel this hasn’t happened.

Care

When someone needs to move to a care home their social work department can carry out a financial assessment to see how much financial help they qualify for.  Did you know that if they are a veteran receiving War Pensions and Armed Forces Compensation Scheme payments, these payments won’t be counted as income in the financial assessment?  This means they may be eligible for more funding.

Housing

Did you know that specialist housing for veterans is provided by a number of charitable organisations in Scotland – from single rooms to adapted family homes?  The guide includes a list of providers you can apply for housing with.

Money matters

The guide introduces the main benefits relevant to older veterans.  Benefits rules are complex and the guide will not give you all the answers.  It will however help you to ask the right questions, which you can then put to the Age Scotland Helpline 0800 12 44 222.  In the first half of 2018, the helpline identified around £25,000 of unclaimed benefits for our veteran callers and their dependents.

Out and about

Did you know that veterans and their families can get discounts for many goods and services through the Defence Discount Service, the official MOD discount service for the UK’s armed forces and veterans?

Download the guide here or get a copy posted out for free by calling the Age Scotland Helpline 0800 12 44 222 or by emailing publications@agescotland.org.uk.

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Let’s focus on older veterans’ mental health

To mark mental health awareness week The Age Scotland Veterans’ Project highlights the mental health needs of older veterans.


First, a myth to bust.  It’s not common for military veterans to have combat-related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Yes, it happens, and can be debilitating for those living with it.  Yet according to Scotland’s Veterans’ Commissioner ‘the vast majority of those leaving the military do so without severe mental health problems and cope well with the transition to civilian life.’

 

So, no need for concern?  Wrong.  There are almost a quarter of a million veterans in Scotland who have their share of mental health problems common in the wider population, including depression, general anxiety or stress related disorders.  Almost half of those veterans are aged 75 or older, and so are at more risk of experiencing loneliness and isolation as a result of the big life changes ageing can bring.

While mental health awareness is increasing in the military, older veterans will have left service at a time when understanding and support was much more limited.  The Veterans’ Commissioner has also highlighted how the ‘military is historically associated with a culture of heavy drinking’ and that, while much has been done within the military to shift behaviours, ‘alcohol misuse is still significantly higher than amongst the general population.’  And then there is the pride, stoicism and self-reliance instilled by military life: qualities that are advantageous while in service, but potentially disadvantageous when it comes to admitting vulnerability and seeking help in civilian life.

The good news is that there is a wide range of help and support to enable older veterans enjoy the best possible mental health and wellbeing, including Combat Stress and Veterans First Point.  Comradeship, the strong bonds forged in military service, can also support mental wellbeing among veterans.  Many of our partners in Unforgotten Forces make huge contributions to enabling isolated older veterans to enjoy comradeship, including Legion Scotland, Luminate, Poppyscotland, Music in Hospitals & Care, Erskine and Fares4Free.

Older veterans who have mental health problems arising from, or made worse by, their service, may be eligible for compensation from the Ministry of Defence.  Under the War Pension scheme, which applies to conditions related to service before 2005, there is no time limit for claims.  For such conditions veterans are also entitled to priority healthcare, meaning that they should be prioritised over to other patients with the same level of clinical need.  The Armed Services Advice Project can give advice where that may not have been the case.

Pre-order your free copy of The Veterans’ Guide to Later Life in Scotland call 0800 12 44 222 or email publications@agescotland.org.uk.

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Haud the bus!

Age Scotland’s Policy Engagement and Campaigns Officer, Simon Ritchie, is working with Transport Scotland to gather the views of older people on all things transport. This research is taking place via a series of Age Scotland Network Meetings right across Scotland in two phases – Spring and Autumn 2018.  Transport Scotland is reviewing the National Transport Strategy, first published in 2006, to ensure it meets the needs of society now and for the next twenty years.  

18342285_1440445112689121_8800983467175109032_nOn Saturday 24th March I travelled across the country to Helensburgh on the Eastern shore of the sparkling Gare Loch. I was on my way to a meeting of Grey Matters, a local Age Scotland Member group for older people which works to connect them with their community and ensure they have an enjoyable and fulfilling life. I was joined by my Community Development Team colleague, Charlie Murphy, as well as Daniel Lafferty and Jonathan Inglis from Transport Scotland.  They wanted to hear from the group members about their experiences and perspectives on public transport – feedback which will directly shape the revised National Transport Strategy for the next twenty years.

Scotland’s original National Transport Strategy was published in 2006. It had five main objectives:

  1. To promote economic growth
  2. To promise social inclusion
  3. To protect the environment and improve health
  4. Make journeys safer
  5. Improve integration in timetables and ticketing.

These objectives were to lead to three strategic outcomes: 1) improved journey times and connections, 2) reduced emissions and 3) improved quality, accessibility and affordability of public transport.

While its objectives remain every bit as relevant today as they were in 2006, it’s fair to say the world has changed considerably in twelve years, not least in terms of technology, and Scottish Ministers have decided that the time to shape a new National Transport Strategy is now.

Since 2016, Transport Scotland have been working with stakeholders to produce a loose framework for a revised NTS, or “NTS2” as it is referred to. 2018 will be the year that flesh is put onto the bones and that’s where our Age Scotland Network Meetings come in – we will be facilitating these presentations and collecting feedback from 18 Network Meetings right across Scotland this Spring and Autumn.

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Helensburgh was the first of these meetings. Daniel and Jonny kicked the meeting off with a presentation in which they gave an overview of Scotland’s transport system over the past 60 years. This helped to contextualise our current transport system and also showed how rapidly things can change.

Up next were questions for discussion. Group members were asked to share and discuss their views on questions such as “Why do we think transport is a vital issue for older people?” and “what do older people need from our transport system over the next 20 years? 

There was no shortage of constructive opinions and suggestions from the floor. Matters which were discussed included stop-skipping on our railways, limited evening bus service provision, dangerous accelerating and braking on buses, connections to hospitals and disabled access on trains and buses.

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Age Scotland is grateful to Transport Scotland for working with us to ensure that the voices of older people are listened to in shaping NTS2. We are also grateful to our Member Groups for allowing us the time in their meetings to discuss NTS2. Our first Meeting on 24th of March was a resounding success and we hope for a great turnout and engagement at forthcoming meetings around the country.

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Working with Transport Scotland and most importantly of all, the older people in our Member Groups, we at Age Scotland are looking forward to playing our part in Scotland’s National Transport Strategy is the best it possibly can be for people of all ages – including older people who deserve an enjoyable, mobile and well-connected later life.


For more information please contact Simon Ritchie – Policy Engagement & Campaigns Officer at Age Scotland on 0131 668 8047 or email communications@agescotland.org.uk

 

Tackling isolation among older veterans

Loneliness and isolation can affect older people generally, but there can be additional challenges tackling it for veterans.  Often they miss social contact with other veterans, who understand their experiences, and with whom they can enjoy the bond of military comradeship.  Doug Anthoney from the Age Scotland Veterans’ Project visited a project in Motherwell that offers veterans just that.


A cold Friday morning and my taxi awaits by Glasgow Queen Street Station.  “Get in,” says the driver, “I got you a coffee.” If that doesn’t sound like an ordinary taxi, that’s because it isn’t.  David Gibson is both co-ordinator and a driver for Fares4Free: a charity that arranges taxis for veterans who are isolated and unable to get to important services, and one of Age Scotland’s partners in the Unforgotten Forces consortium.  Today we’re off to the Veterans’ Café at Kings Church in Motherwell: VC@KC for short.

On the way we pick up Rosie, a nurse who supports veterans with health issues to attend the café for their first few weeks.  Today she’s off-duty however, and going because she’s a veteran herself.  We also collect a veteran who has been isolated and is going to the café for the first time.  As we drive it becomes clear that David’s service goes far beyond transport: he is a listening ear, information source and problem solver for veterans.  “Sometimes veterans wont’ share their problems for a long time,” he says.  “It’s only after you’ve been driving them for months, even years, that you’ll have built up the trust for them to tell you.”

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More than just transport; David offers a transport: listening ear, is a source of helpful information and a problem solver for veterans.

We arrive at the Café, and it’s buzzing.  There are over 40 veterans; some young, but most older.  I talk to one who did national service.  “I feel a bit guilty, not really a veteran like the others,” he says.  Julie Muir, who co-founded the café in 2015, says this is not uncommon.  “We had a man here who had served in military air traffic control; and he didn’t feel entitled.  We persuaded him that of course he was a veteran, and helped him get his service medal.  He and his family were so chuffed.”

Julie and her husband Scott left military service in 2002, but found resettlement hard and support structures inadequate.  “We thought, if we struggled with no debt, no kids, and no health problems, then how much harder will it be for veterans who face such problems.”

The café had a slow start.  “Initially there were more volunteers than veterans,” says Julie.  Attendance really picked up when they learned about veterans’ housing that was being built.  “We got a list of the houses and popped round with hampers for the veterans.  Now we have around 20 regulars, and there are about ten for whom it’s the only thing they go to.”

So why does it work? “We’ve learned that a military-style environment is the last thing you need,” says Julie.  “Some served for a few days, some for 22 years.  No one gets treated any differently, and all feel they belong.  We don’t make distinctions between the services.  Everyone looks out for each other, and there are no cliques.”  It also helps that it’s a café. “For some of the guys, they really don’t want to go near a bar!”

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“No one gets treated any differently, and all feel they belong.  We don’t make distinctions between the services.  Everyone looks out for each other, and there are no cliques.”

The café is a hub for veterans’ services, including Unforgotten Forces partners such as the Armed Services Advice Project and Defence Medical Welfare Service.  It’s also about helping veterans’ families, including in some instances respite time for veterans’ carers.  “We’ve got new funding and plans to expand,” says Julie.  We want to offer more activities such as gardening and cooking.  Many of our veterans feel they’ve got a lot, now they would like to give back.”


To find out what the Veterans’ Project can do for older veterans, and for clubs, groups and services that would like to work with them, visit www.agescotland.org.uk/veterans.

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A new Men’s Shed for Broughty Ferry!

Our vision is of a Scotland where everyone can love later life. We’re delighted to have been able to offer community development support to men’s sheds over the last four years. Another Men’s Shed recently open their doors to the communtity for the first time.


More than 50 people attended the Grand Opening of Broughty Ferry Men’s Shed on Saturday 14 October. The shed will bring older men together to work on practical projects, socialise and share skills.

The YMCA gave the group the use of a derelict hut in its Brook Street grounds, and helped them secure funding from the MOD Fund for wood and metal working tools and equipment. Volunteers have utterly transformed the building, installing heating, windows, doors, and a kitchen and creating a workshop space and IT area.


Age Scotland were delighted to support the project aslongside Rosendael Veterans Association. The shed also received donations from local organisations, businesses and individuals.

Broughty Ferry Men’s Shed is part of a growing movement of “shedders” throughout Scotland. The first Men’s Shed was set up in Aberdeenshire in 2013 and there are now more than 100 nationwide!

Alex Harvey, a retired engineer and chairman of the shed, said: “We want to deal with isolation and bring people into the community. This can particularly affect people who have been bereaved, retired, or made redundant.

“We hope that older people will come along and find some purpose in what we’re doing.  Many people are interested in learning a bit more about DIY, and you can learn something new at any age.”


The shed meets every Tuesday and Thursday from 9.30am to 3.30pm. They ask only donations from attendees, and it is fully accessible to people with disabilities.

Age Scotland’s recent report, The Shed Effect, highlighted the impact these sheds have on improving health and wellbeing, and tackling social isolation among older men.

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Keith Robson, Age Scotland’s Charity Director, said: “The hard work and enthusiasm that has gone into this project is truly inspiring, and we’d like to wish them every success. We hope the shed will provide a welcoming space for people to come together, share skills, or just have a blether.

“We know from talking to shedders around the country how much they can improve health and well-being and help tackle loneliness and social isolation. I’d encourage everyone to come along, have a cup of tea, and see what the shed has to offer.”


To find out more about Men’s Sheds, contact the Age Scotland community development team on 0333 32 32 400.

Money Matters: a new Age Scotland project

Age Scotland has received funding from the Money Advice Service for a new project: until February 2018 we are offering older peoples’ groups a choice of Money Matters roadshows.

We have four new people in the team: Jessica Shields our Evaluation officer, Fiona Scott our Project assistant, Cheryl Fowler who will be delivering most of our roadshows and Sam Longden who will support helpline advisers and improve our information about money matters.

We can deliver roadshows on a choice of subjects:

Benefit entitlements – did you know that 1/3 of people who are entitled don’t claim Pension Credit? Could you be missing out? Do you know how many ways there are to get help with your council tax bill? Might you be entitled to Attendance Allowance?

Care costs and funding – what does care cost? If you qualify for free personal and nursing care what is actually free? Is it true that most people have to sell their house?

Power of Attorney – what types are there? How do you choose your attorney? What are your responsibilities if you are an attorney and where can you get advice?

Wills and funeral costs – why should you write a will? Do you know what a funeral costs? How much help is available from the government? How can you save money on costs?

Planning for and managing financial changes – does your group support people who face particular challenges with money because of caring responsibilities, health issues or bereavement? We can look at how best you can manage financial issues which affect you, and learn from you too.

After the roadshows, people can call the Age Scotland helpline, 0800 12 44 222 for a confidential conversation with an adviser.

The aim of the project is to find out “what works”. So we will be working with you to find out what you know before and after roadshows, seeing how many people make follow-up calls to our helpline and, if you agree, contacting you afterwards to find out if you did take steps to claim a benefit, take out a Power of Attorney or plan for funeral costs. We really need the feedback about what worked and what didn’t work, and we will adapt our roadshows and information in response to what we learn from you.

We are looking for some groups to help us to develop our training and information, and we will also be asking professionals who work with older people what money issues they are raising, what they know about money concerns for older people and what would support them to guide older people to find advice and help.

For more information or to book a roadshow call the Age Scotland switchboard on 0333 323 2400 or email the team

Quality of Life on the Isle of Shapinsay

Toni Giugliano, Age Scotland’s Policy Engagement & Campaign Officer, recently headed to Orkney as part of his work around quality of life in later life in partnership with Stirling University. 


Earlier this month the Quality of Life Project took me to Shapinsay in Orkney. It was a unique opportunity to gather the views of older people about what makes a good life in later years in a rural and remote part of the country.

I was humbled by the extremely warm welcome I received by the organisers and participants. I was picked up from the ferry terminal in the community electric car and whisked along to the “Boathouse” – a fantastic community space where we were protected from the ultra-strong winds (which locals told me were not, in fact, that strong at all!).

In total, eight residents took part in the discussions, which explored several themes, including health and wellbeing, the importance of a close-knit community, relationships, care, transport, personal independence and the role of older people in society.

Below are some statements that came out of the discussions:

“Befriending services are a lifeline – even if you have a close family, often you feel like you don’t want to impose on them. You want to be independent, and a befriender won’t pass judgement.”

“Pass times are so important once you reach a certain age – they give you a focus, a purpose in life, a reason to be on this world.”

“As you become older, you enter a different category. You are likely to become slightly invisible.”

“Many people who once had a social status during their working life tend to lose it once they reach a certain age.”

“Older people still have a lot to contribute to society.”

“There should be incentives for volunteers to take on home care visits and spend some time chatting to people. The home visits you get only last 15 minutes – it’s just not enough. You want to get to know a person and have a chat with them. With the current system they just don’t have enough time to do that.”

“The cost of the ferry is too much; it’s not affordable. Other islands (local authorities) get a better deal”.

“We’ve had to fight hard on this island for the services we have. We need to stay on the ball and continue to do that if we want to keep them.”

It was particularly interesting to hear about the work of the Shapinsay Development Trust and the activities and services it runs to improve the lives of people on the island, including social activities to combat loneliness and isolation. The Sew Shapinsay project, for example, is a great social activity bringing many people together.

The Shapinsay focus group discussion, like all other focus groups that have taken place across the country, will soon be analysed by our researcher teams (who themselves are older people). The project seeks to: (i) explore what older people believe the essence of a good life is; and (ii) lobby decision makers to improve policies that support older people as they age.

Whilst in Orkney I took the opportunity to visit the Age Scotland office in Kirkwall to discuss the Scottish Government’s Social Security Consultation and how the proposed changes are likely to impact older people. We received a number of responses which helped shape our submission. For more information on this, see the relevant pages of our website.


The Quality of Life Project is funded by the Life Changes Trust. To find out more about the project, visit our website.