Alex Askew, 34, served three years with the RAF Regiment but after leaving the Forces in 2008 following a diagnosis of PTSD he struggled to find steady employment and housing.
Alex and wife Lisa, who met online while he was serving in Afghanistan, spent three years staying with friends and family and were classified as homeless before they were finally allocated housing. The couple have since had to move twice but are now happily settled with their 18-month-old daughter.
Now musician Alex is releasing a song – Just Another Week - which he hopes will speak to others who have been through similar problems and donating part of the proceeds to SSAFA as thanks for the support he has received.
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“I wrote the song when we were really stuck and because of the things I was going through when I wrote it I thought other people would be able to relate to it,” he said. “I had been posted non-effective for about a year after I got back from Afghanistan and then when I first came out the Forces there was just no work because it was 2008 when we were in the recession. We started up our own gardening business which went quite well for a couple of years but we worked ourselves into the ground and both ended up in hospital.
“We had nowhere to live and the council wasn’t helping us to get housed. We had saved up a lot from when we had the business but when we were off work we had to live off the money we had saved.”
Alex and Lisa stayed with family and friends and in Bed & Breakfast accommodation for three years, and were classified homeless, but finally they found somewhere to live.
He said: “I found out about SSAFA from going to the RBL club in Crayford. Then we found out Lisa’s grandad had been helped by SSAFA years ago. We had literally just got into temporary accommodation and it wasn’t great. The walls were damp and each room led into the next so you had to go through the bedroom to get to the bathroom. We were only there for about six months. Our SSAFA caseworker Marion was lovely. She got in touch with the RAFBF and they helped us to get the furniture. After about six months we were allocated housing in Welling which also had problems unfortunately but Marion helped us again.”
Marion Leaver, a caseworker with SSAFA’s Bexley division, was able to raise funds to cover the cost of furniture, white goods, redecorating, carpets, curtains and a shower. She also helped the couple to clear most of their priority debts. Alex and Lisa went on to organise the SSAFA Bandfest music festival two years running as a way of saying thank you.
Alex said: “Nobody likes asking for charity, but we were overwhelmed by Marion’s support. She really turned our lives around. We thought we can’t just take this money; we’ve got to give something back.”
Now the couple, having moved for a second time, are settled in Crayford with their daughter Katie-Juliet and Alex has found a permanent position at a sign-makers. Following a donation from Welling Round Table, Alex’s band Shadey Scandals was able to have Just Another Week professionally produced and recorded and have even made a video, while photographer Lisa created the single cover.
She said: “We support and encourage each other and that’s what has kept us going. There’s definitely something about the song that I think will resonate with people who have been through tough times.”
Alex said: “It occurred to us that the feelings I was going through whilst writing Just Another Week are not only relevant to me, but any other ex serviceman that may reach out to SSAFA for help. I’m hoping this will appeal to everybody no matter what their age.”