At the start of 2020, we were absolutely delighted to find out that we have been awarded two major Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust grants: Positive Pathways and Removing Barriers to Family Life. Both of which have and will continue to enable us to significantly develop our work across Wales over the next two years.
Recently, Woody’s Lodge was awarded a fourth round of funding from The Armed Forces Covenant Trust as part of the Positive Pathways Grant, this will help fund our new project: Life Beyond Service, at our North Wales hub.
What has Woody’s been up to?
Since the COVID-19 crisis began Woody’s has stayed in contact with veterans, holding twice weekly virtual drop-ins and other virtual events. Additionally, Woody’s has made over 2000 support visits and calls to vulnerable veterans and families who were identified by staff or were referred to Woody’s from partner agencies throughout Wales.
In addition, our support work ‘Form filing’ in the last financial year has drawn down £380,000 in benefits and pensions payments for veterans who believed they were not eligible!
Woody’s is now actively working on our Green, Green Grass of Home project at our West Wales farm site in order to develop an outdoor activity program for Veterans and families which will act as a catalyst to improve relationships and mental and physical health.
What does this funding mean for Woody’s?
Woody’s Lodge will expand the range of activities it already offers in support of veterans with mental health issues, through the inclusion of additional sporting opportunities, photography and modelling activities, gardening and forestry, all in a COVID-proof environment.
Funding of this project will pay for the first year of a three-year project to broaden the dedicated Support Officer role and establish a new role of Assistant Support Officer in North Wales. The addition of these staff members will provide Woody’s with the capacity needed to support veterans with mental health problems while establishing programs in art, outdoor activities and sports, all activities known to promote good mental health.
Woody’s will initially focus on providing photography workshops. We have previously conducted two multiday workshops with more than a dozen Veterans participating. The first course was developed in partnership with Disability Arts Wales, who provided facilities, equipment, and instructors. The most recent course was led by a local Veteran and some equipment was provided by Woody’s. Both courses resulted in the work of participating Veteran’s being displayed in a local photography exhibition. The photography workshops will be aimed at introducing participants to the therapeutic hobby through organized bi-monthly courses/outings held over a four-month period.
Information about potential sports programs (Veteran’s Football and Cycling) is being canvased through the North Wales Veteran’s Community to determine levels of interest. The proposed Veteran’s Football Club will be organized and led by a Reservist who is preparing to leave service and supported by the Colwyn Bay Football Club. The proposed Veteran’s cycling group will be organized by a Volunteer (Disabled Veteran) in cooperation with Welsh Cycling and Disability Sports Wales. The program will be focused on assisting Veterans of all abilities to develop and improve their cycling skills and assist them in pursuing this hobby as a means of developing physical and mental resilience.
We will also work with several partners on this project, including NHS Veterans Mental Health Wales, BLESMA, Change Step, TGP, SSCE, SSAFA, RAFA, ABF, Royal British Legion and the Armed Forces Forum. Additionally, HAFAL is working in an advisory capacity with Woody’s on this project.
How can Woody’s Support with Mental Health
Woody’s Staff and Trustees have undertaken a series of training courses such as Mental Health First Aid, MAPA, Physical First Aid and Dementia training which aids them in identifying Veterans with potential mental health needs. Woody’s has gained a reputation amongst the Veteran’s community in Wales so often Veterans come to us looking for assistance and referral to agencies that can assist them in gaining the help they need. Fortunately, through our enduring relationship and partnership with NHS Veterans Mental Health Wales, Change Step, Royal British Legion, and BLESMA we have a network of trained and professional organizations that we can contact for assistance or refer Veterans to for assistance.
How will Life Beyond Service Support Veterans?
This project is needed to cultivate and improve the support capacity previously available to Veterans across North Wales. The Support Officer position originally began in early 2019 and in that first year 1,482 Veterans received support. Woody’s continually adapts its COVID response to ever changing government legislation in order to safely support its veterans, pre/post vaccinations. During the first 17 weeks of the crisis, beginning 26 March 2020, the team in North Wales facilitated 425 referrals, calls and visits with only two members of staff and volunteers in accordance with Government COVID-19 guidelines. Since then, referrals have increased to more than 775. The addition of the dedicated Support Officer and assistant support officer will increase the capabilities of the team and will ensure that appropriate referral pathways are developed which will assist Veterans to receive the correct support from the most appropriate agency based upon their individual circumstances.
The interest in this project has been made clear to Woody’s Lodge based on the volume of referrals, calls and visits being fielded by Woody’s Staff and partner agencies in North Wales. Many Veteran’s that use our Hub and Drop-in Centres in North Wales have expressed enthusiasm and a desire to participate in future photography courses after seeing information and imagery from the courses through our Social Media sites. Veterans have also expressed the desire to participate in outdoor activities and sporting endeavours.
Additionally, over the last year meetings with a range of referral partners and local authority have established the need and relevance for outdoor activities which are in the developmental in North Wales with the addition of the Gwalia Farm facilities to the Woody’s Lodge resources. The use of the outdoors to aid Veterans in reconnecting with themselves and one another has always been central to our focus and ethos at Woody’s Lodge and we see this grant as a key step in helping Veterans across the region gain access to these opportunities.
We have already begun planning a lot of the work behind the scenes, we will let you know as soon as we are ready! If you’d like to know more about the project, you can contact us here.
Woody’s Lodge is a communications and social hub for veterans of the armed forces and emergency services, along with their families. We provide safe spaces for armed service veterans, recent leavers, reservists and those who served in the emergency services to socialise and access a wide range of health and social services.