SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity

SSAFA are the longest serving national tri-service military charity. For over 135 years they have provided lifelong support to those who are serving, veterans and their families.

Their support covers both regulars and reservists in the British Army, the Royal Navy, the Royal Air Force and their families, including anyone who has completed National Service. Whether they are a veteran who served in the Second World War or a young man or woman who has served in more recent conflicts, they are all entitled for help.

In 2019 SSAFA supported 85,000 people in the Armed Forces community and dealt with 29,930 calls, emails and letters to their helpline. With the arrival of COVID-19, they have seen calls to their confidential free helpline, Forcesline, increase.  Urgent requests for help through this line are dramatically increasing over phone, webchat and email.

SSAFA understands that behind every uniform is a person, and with their team of over 5,000 volunteers they are able to be there for that person, any time they need them, in any way they need them, for as long as they need them.

To find out more about SSAFA please visit their website: www.ssafa.org.uk

Derek Taylor

As Britain went into lockdown, veteran Derek Taylor’s first concern was how would he feed his children. Self-employed for less than a year, the former Corporal in the Royal Fusiliers was not able to access any support from the Government, despite the Covid-19 crisis. Derek believed he was entirely alone. Then he was told about SSAFA.

“I’m a single dad whose gone from working 18-hour days to provide for my children, to being locked inside with nothing coming in…I just didn’t know how I was going to pay for anything…..I was lost”

Derek served in the Army for 23 years, including eleven operational tours of Bosnia, Kosovo, Northern Ireland and Iraq, and spent four years as an Acting Sergeant before retiring. After he left the Army he started working as an enforcement agent however due to the limited time he has been self-employed, when coronavirus happened, he found that he was ineligible for financial support from the Government.

Derek has four children and with their mother working in a care home, two of them are currently living with him full time. The change in living costs combined with a drop in income and outstanding debts added even more pressure.

I broke down, and though it was hard to admit I needed help, by that point I was willing to do anything. People kept saying it’s good to talk, but all I could think was talking wasn’t going to put a roof over our heads.”

After mentioning his financial difficulties to the “NHS Veteran’s mental health service” where he was receiving ongoing support Derek was put in touch with SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity. Within a matter of days he had the financial means he needed to cope.

SSAFA, you guys are banging. You are exactly what we need.”

“I got a phone call from the caseworker Peter Knight from my local (SSAFA) branch in North Warwickshire. The next thing I knew he’d secured money from the Royal British Legion and the Royal Fusiliers for my rent and he also gave me £450 for food and supplies. It took ten days from me being utterly lost to knowing I could get by again. I was able to use my pension to pay my bills and even managed to buy pyjamas for my children. That was amazing.”

“It had a massive impact on me. That is what SSAFA does. It impacts people’s lives massively and saves them. I would say Peter saved my life.. “

Don’t be too proud or think they won’t understand”

Now Derek is urging other service personnel and veterans to get in touch with SSAFA if they have been affected by the Covid-19 crisis, or if they need any other form of support.

“If I didn’t speak to SSAFA when I did there is a chance I wouldn’t be here now. I know many veterans and soldiers who have committed suicide because of trivial things like debt and not knowing who to turn to. When I was first going through the process, I didn’t have a clue where to go but now I would tell anyone to go to SSAFA. Don’t be too proud or think they won’t understand. A lot of people in the charity were in a similar place to me 10 years before. There is a similarity between us and they are brilliant and know how to put you back on your feet and give you direction.

“Unfortunately for some people it is too late, but to anyone hearing my story that needs help, pick up the phone and call SSAFA.”