Dave Frost

Veteran RAF Pilot and Trainer, and SSAFA Caseworker, tells us about working with SSAFA as a volunteer.

Dave Frost

Veteran RAF Pilot and Trainer, and SSAFA Caseworker, tells us about working with SSAFA as a volunteer.

Dave is a highly experienced caseworker in the Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire area. He joined SSAFA in 2004 and has helped countless veterans, service personnel and their families since.

"After a full career as a pilot and flying instructor in the RAF, I retired (reluctantly but compulsorily!) in 2003 at the age of 55. Being far too young for pipe and slippers, I took on a near-full-time (paid) job with Citizens Advice (CA) as a debt adviser and several other charitable commitments, including SSAFA.

"The hours I devote to SSAFA vary enormously but I’ve always felt in control as you are free to accept or refuse cases, depending on other personal commitments (e.g. holidays); that said, you do need to be reliable and complete whatever you take on. I’ve now retired from CA so spend more time with SSAFA."

What was your best moment with SSAFA?

"The best moment, so far, was when I prevented the eviction a terminally ill Battle of Britain Spitfire pilot; he had been given 6 months to live and his only remaining wish was to die in his own home. But he was unable to continue to pay the mortgage. I acted as his lay representative in the County Court and persuaded the Judge to allow him 56 days before eviction (the maximum within his discretion) instead of the usual 28 days. I then got to work on his lender (Alliance and Leicester) who recognised that they did not have to enforce the Court Order immediately and were persuaded to delay. A couple of monthly mortgage payments donated by the RAF Benevolent Fund were crucial in spinning the situation out. 7 months later, once I knew I had helped my client achieve his last wish, I not only felt great job satisfaction but that I had also done a small service of gratitude on behalf of the nation. I went back to Court some weeks later (on another matter) and informed the Judge of the final outcome of the case. He was just as pleased as I was!"

What has been your biggest success in SSAFA so far?

"I can’t just pinpoint one moment. As a caseworker, I generally see people in their own homes, although some prefer to meet in a neutral venue (quiet corners in coffee shops are popular). At the meeting, we discuss together the best way forward for that individual client. If appropriate, I will submit an application to one or more of the military benevolent funds (or any other charity or employer for that matter) to try and get financial or other assistance to help them. Every time a notification comes through that a grant is being given, I know that my client’s situation will improve. That’s success."

Is there anything you have done recently that you are proud of?

"I helped a married couple called Michael and Sheena; he is an RAF veteran and she worked as a civilian in the local Officers’ Mess for many years. Sheena has cared for Michael night and day for the last 4 years. She hadn’t had a break from being a carer for Michael in all that time. She came to SSAFA and asked me if there was any chance they would be able to access a respite break together. Michael gets very anxious if he is separated from Sheena for any length of time and she wanted to spend time with him but have a break from her caring duties.

"Fortunately, with the generous assistance of our friends at the RAF Benevolent Fund, I was able to arrange this."

Is there anything difficult about being a SSAFA caseworker?

"Honestly? It is hard when there isn’t anything I can do to help a client; I don’t like ‘signposting’ because I feel that if someone has come to us for help, then we should provide it. However, we can’t do everything and signposting is the best way forward sometimes.

"Having to break the news that assistance has been declined is disappointing, and not only for the client. And then there are the times when we submit a request for assistance and I know from judgement and experience that there is little chance of success. Expectation management is a crucial part of being a caseworker."

So what would you say to anyone thinking about becoming a caseworker?

"I would say if you can devote some weekly time, you are compassionate and you have the determination to see a job through, then you should go for it.

"One little tip for new caseworkers: become familiar with benefits! I always carry a booklet called ‘Adviser’s Guide to Benefits’ published annually by North Yorks District Council. It costs a few pounds but it enables me to advise on what can be claimed and how to claim it. And I can confidently empower clients to claim for themselves or know what to ask other agencies can do for them (Age UK, CA, DWP, Local Authorities etc)."

If you think you can help your local Armed Forces community like Dave does, then please consider volunteering for SSAFA today!