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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Hearing Forces: a new service for Scotland’s Veterans

Action on Hearing Loss Scotland’s new Scotland wide Hearing Forces service is part of the Unforgotten Forces consortium, which offers advice and support to veterans aged 65 or over, their families and carers with hearing loss or tinnitus.


Hearing loss is a common health issue in the armed forces. Many veterans have been exposed to loud noise from gun fire, engines and other machinery, and explosives. The 2014 ‘Lost Voices’ report, collated by the Royal British Legion with support from Action on Hearing Loss, found that veterans under the age of 75 are around three and a half times more likely to experience hearing loss than the general population.

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Veterans William Smith and Elizabeth Mitchell 

Through the Hearing Forces service, we can offer a service regardless of where veterans are in their hearing loss journey. This can include:

• Hearing checks and screening
• hearing aid maintenance and support on using your aids
• advice on useful equipment to improve every day life (e.g. amplified
• telephones, personal listeners)
• support both before and after hearing aids have been fitted.

We are currently delivering the service in a variety of settings across Scotland, (in particular with Unforgotten Forces partner’s venues) including Scottish War Blinded centres, Erskine, Poppy Scotland welfare centres, British Legions, ex service clubs and many more! We can also visit veterans in their own homes if they struggle to get out or we can see them at a local location convenient to them.

We are also currently recruiting for volunteers to help us deliver the service, across the whole of the country – if this is something of interest to you, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

To contact us, to make a referral or if you would like us to visit your group or venue, get in touch using the dteails below:

Tel: 07388 227407
Email: hearing.forces@hearingloss.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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Supporting veterans with sight loss – a fantastic boost for Paisley

Age Scotland is proud to be part of the Unforgotten Forces consortium – a partnership between 14 leading organisations that deliver a range of new services and enhancements for older veterans living in Scotland. In this guest blog we hear from Scottish War Blinded about their work with older members of the veterans’ community.


Scottish War Blinded are part of the Unforgotten Forces Consortium to raise awareness of the increasing range of support and activities available to older veterans with aged related sight loss, or visual impairment as a result of any cause.

The Hawkhead Centre opened in Paisley in October of this year, and is for military veterans with sight loss – irrespective of the cause of their sight loss. It has become a hive of activity since the doors opened.

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Hawkhead Centre, Paisley

Many of the veterans who have regularly attend the centre’s activities and classes have age related sight loss such as macular degeneration.

The focus of the centre is on supporting veterans to regain confidence and skills they feel they might have lost following their sight loss.

Veterans who find it difficult to travel alone can make use of the free door to door transport, which has become a lifeline for many who live further afield from the centre. Veterans from across the West of Scotland are using these free transport links to come together at the centre on a regular basis.

A great opportunity available at the centre is one-to-one sight loss assessments to support veterans in getting the most out of their remaining sight. The Rehabilitation team work at the centre to provide specialist equipment, and get equipment which is best suited to each individual.

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The charity provides financial assistance so that veterans can take life changing pieces of equipment home, such as magnifiers to read the mail once more or screen readers to listen to the newspaper again.

Activities such as I.T training have opened up a new world for many older veterans in particular, many of whom felt that the online world was not for them. Guidance on assistive technology means many have sent their first email and completed their first online shopping.

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For many older people struggling with sight loss, falls have become an issue. The strength and fitness classes at the centre are a social way to gain better balance and improve mobility.

Cooking and baking sessions are a way to pick up old skills and learn new recipes, using specially adapted equipment which supports people with sight loss to cook safely and with more ease. Such equipment which enables veterans to be more independent at home is available following individual assessment.

The centre has proven to be a life affirming part of older people’s lives in a short space of time.

Scottish War Blinded welcomes new referrals to the new centre in Paisley, or to the Linburn centre in West Lothian. The organisation also provide an outreach service which supports people in their homes all over Scotland.

If you would like to refer a veteran with sight loss call 0800 035 6409 – it doesn’t matter the cause of their sight loss, Scottish War Blinded are for any veteran with sight loss.

Introducing our man in the North: Age Scotland’s Veteran’s Project

This autumn Steve Henderson joined Age Scotland as dedicated Community Development Officer for the charity’s new Veterans’ Project with a peripatetic remit spanning the north of Scotland.  We asked Steve, a veteran himself, about his background and aspirations for the project.


Steve joined the Army (Royal Regiment of Artillery) in 1983, with which he served as both soldier and officer until 2006.  He then moved with his family to Abu Dhabi in United Arab Emirates where he worked on a ten-year military training management implementation programme.  After returning to UK early 2015, he eventually settled back home in Scotland and his career took a new direction with Dementia Friendly Communities (DFC) Helmsdale. IMG_0073 (2).JPG

The Age Scotland Veterans’ Project attracted him because “following a successful military career I saw it as an opportunity to give something back to a community of veterans who have served before me.”   The need he anticipates among older members of the veterans’ community include loneliness and isolation.  “This is an issue in general, but it can be exacerbated by being a veteran,” he says.  “Veterans tend to speak a different language; they have their own ‘craic.’  There are some things they won’t feel comfortable speaking about in a civilian environment, but will talk to other veterans about.

“There can also be a culture of self-reliance that means you don’t go to the doctor unless your arm is falling off. Some veterans will only ask for help when they’ve reached crisis point.”

Sensory impairment is another problem.  “Ear protection for the military didn’t come in until late 1990s,” says Steve.  His own hearing has been affected by proximity to rocket launches.

Perhaps the biggest issue however is that many people who are entitled to additional help and support inadvertently miss out.  “Lots of individuals don’t class themselves as a veteran, particularly those who did national service.  We want to make sure that older veterans can benefit from all the help and support available via Age Scotland and from our Unforgotten Forces partner organisations.

Steve has been delighted with the response so far to the project at recent Age Scotland network meetings and in meetings with individual groups.  “People think it is money well spent: not least the fact that Aged Veterans’ Fund funding comes ultimately from LIBOR banking fines.”  Steve’s next steps are to engage with more groups, both among Age Scotland’s membership and within the veterans’ community.  “One of the things I’m keen to do is introduce these groups to each other, so that more veterans can benefit from all that’s on offer from the charity’s members,” says Steve.  “I will also be available to enable people to access the information and advice they need, and to deliver training where applicable.”

632x305_veterans_projectIf you are part of a community group in the North or North East of Scotland and would like to make contact with Steve, you can call him on 07808 024801 or email steve.henderson@agescotland.org.uk.   Visit www.agescotland.org.uk/veterans

Break Away – a new service for veterans

Age Scotland is proud to be partnering with Poppyscotland as part of the Unforgotten Forces consortium. Unforgotten Forces is a partnership between 14 leading organisations which will deliver a range of new services and enhancements for older veterans living in Scotland. We hear from Poppyscotland on an exciting new service for veterans.


As part of the Unforgotten Forces project, Poppyscotland are proud to launch an exciting new service, Break Away, providing much-needed breaks for veterans aged 65 and older. Poppyscotland recognise the value of a break and the boost it can give to a person’s health and wellbeing. The service is aimed at anyone who would benefit from a holiday, whether it’s coping with ill health or bereavement, or for those who just need a change of scene and some new company.

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The Break Away service will run throughout the year and can be enjoyed anywhere in the UK.  Each break will be tailored to meet the individual’s circumstances and break preference, with many packages providing disability-access coaches, hotels and activities. The cost of the break, travel costs and a small pot of additional spending money will be made available.

For some, the break might be a six-day escape to the Highlands, taking in the ‘Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond’, the mountaintops of the Cairngorms and the beautiful valleys of the rivers Spey and Dee. Others might prefer a trip to South Devon’s glorious coast for a relaxing stay in Torquay. Here they can enjoy sandy beaches, a lively waterfront and the chance to take an excursion on the famous Flying Scotsman. These are just a few of the options available.

Respite breaks are also available for those with more complex personal care needs such as a severe physical disability or medical condition.  You and your partner / carer can be taken on a break that will be tailor-made for you and give you both the much-needed holiday that you can really enjoy.

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All applications will be assessed on a basis of welfare need and means, and you must be 65 or over.

If you are an eligible veteran, or if you know of someone who might qualify, we would love to hear from you.  For more information about the service or to make an application for a break, please contact Louise Maiden, Breaks Coordinator on email: breakaway@poppyscotland.org.uk or tel: 0131 550 1557.

To find out more about Age Scotland’s Veteran’s Project please visit our website.