Cause UK managed the media launch for Riverside ECHG ‘s #LightsOnForVeterans campaign on 22 October.
With the help of Cause UK, one of the country’s largest housing associations which specialises in providing support for homeless Veterans, launched a new campaign called #LightsOnForVeterans. The campaign is part of Riverside housing’s response to over 1000 enquiries annually from Veterans in housing need, and comes just as the nation prepares to turn its clocks back and put lights on earlier in the evenings.
During 2014 Riverside has already helped over 1,000 Veterans and an autumn survey has shown there are 35 percent more in the 30-50 age range who need intensive support, compared to those under 30. Younger Veterans have benefitted from more focused national support as part of Government initiatives since 2011 aimed at supporting younger people.
“During such an important commemoration year when we have been reminded of how the Lights Went Out all over Europe in 1914 we are making a firm commitment to continue expanding our support for Veterans, particularly older ex-Servicemen and women who can find it hard to return to civilian life after serving many years in the Armed Forces,” said Riverside’s Executive Director of Care and Support, Léann Hearne.
“Riverside runs the country’s main housing advice and accommodation helpline for homeless Veterans and this gives us a unique insight into the challenges they face. Over the last three years we have seen a marked increase in older Veterans needing our specialist housing and therapeutic support services.
“This summer we signed up to the national Armed Forces Corporate Covenant and as a next step Riverside staff will be standing alongside some of the Veterans currently using our services, retired representatives from those who served in World War II and those still currently serving their country, in order to make a commitment to continue to support them. We will be launching an online campaign to put the #LightsOnForVeterans and make sure every Veteran who faces homelessness knows where to receive help if they need it.”
Riverside’s specialist support for Veterans started in 2000 when it set up a groundbreaking partnership with the Ministry of Defence to provide housing advice and support to the small proportion of Veterans who struggle to make the transition back into civilian life when they leave the Armed Forces. Each year Riverside now supports around 1,200 Veterans including in specialist temporary housing and enterprise centres, which have been set up and run by staff who themselves come from an Armed Forces background.
Over 40 percent of Veterans in their specialist centres have mental health problems, with a total of 26 percent discharged from the Armed Forces on medical grounds. Riverside conducted a survey in September 2014 which highlighted the increasing plight and need levels of older Veterans between 30 and 50 years.
The Lights On For Veterans event was supported by soldiers from the 2nd Battalion the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment who will show their support for ex-servicemen and women at risk of homelessness. The Light Role Infantry Battalion is trained to conduct offensive and defensive combat operations in all types of terrain, from built-up areas to the jungle.
The Light Role Infantry Battalion recruits from the North West of England with most members of the Battalion coming from Cumbria, Lancashire, Greater Manchester and Merseyside.
On August 4, the nation was invited to participate in ‘Lights Off’ and plunge into darkness and light a single candle for a shared moment of reflection to mark the day Britain entered World War I and the lamps went out over Europe.
Statistics from the Ministry of Defence in 2014 show that up to 11,000 serving members of the military have been diagnosed with mental health conditions, including PTSD and depression. These figures do not take into account the substantial number of those who suffer mental illnesses after leaving the Services.
Leanne added: “The majority of Veterans adjust to civilian life successfully, but for some it can be daunting, so Riverside is working hard with the Ministry of Defence to provide the services and support to meet this need including a new specialist development for Veterans in Colchester which was announced in the summer.”