SSAFA stands guard on military charities helpdesk
Volunteers from our Hereford Branch are manning a helpdesk together with the Royal British Legion to support Forces families with issues including welfare and benefits.
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SSAFA Herefordshire Branch is manning a free, drop-in Military Charities Helpdesk to support armed forces personnel, their families and veterans with a range of issues, including welfare and benefits.
In conjunction with charity partner The Royal British Legion (TRBL), volunteer members from both organisations are running the helpdesk, working closely with Herefordshire Council staff to ensure the best possible support is in place. Herefordshire Council launched this initiative as part of The Herefordshire Armed Forces Community Covenant Task Group, in the hope that it will have a significant impact on access to support and information for the armed forces community, particularly around health and wellbeing issues.
Tom Moreland, former Army officer, says his life was saved following support from the helpdesk, and is urging others in need to make contact with the centre.
Tom, 49, says he would have killed himself if it hadn’t been for the Military Charities Helpdesk. He’d already taken an overdose and was at his lowest ebb, living rough, when the former Lieutenant from the Ulster Defence Regiment ended up asking for help.
He had hit rock bottom after the death of his wife, Lea, in 2010. She died from lung cancer. They had been together for five years and married for just four weeks. She was 47.
Tom said: “My world began to slowly crumble. Lea had a smile that could light up a room. She was everything to me. I felt very isolated and alone, I couldn’t work and was heavily in debt. I struggled on for three years but eventually it all got too much and I took an overdose of sleeping tablets. I’d made preparations; put a note out for anyone finding me, left a key in the front door and made sure the dogs were ok. I had nothing to live for, I was now homeless, had to leave the house and this was my final hour. But I was found by a friend before the pills had their desired effect, taken to hospital and referred to a psychiatric unit. ”
Tom was initially put in touch with a caseworker who helped him reinstate his benefits, found him temporary accommodation and gave him food and clothing. Tom admits he has problems dealing with what he calls ‘civvy’ authorities but caseworkers at the military charities helpdesk were able to help him with forms and get his case across to those who were able to help him with his entitlements.
Tom, originally from Northern Ireland, served nine years with the UDR. “I was born to be a soldier,” he says proudly. “I loved my time in the army and felt a real sense of achievement when I was commissioned from the ranks after five years.”
Tom said that watching his wife die was the most difficult thing he’s ever had to do. “I’d seen people die before but I never, ever want to see anyone suffer like that again. It opened up a whole raft of nightmares from my past and I’m now getting support from Combat Stress to help deal with those issues.”
Tom is now looking forward. He and his lively Staffordshire bull terrier cross Mylo live in a cosy flat near Hereford City centre and he’s optimistic about the future.
“I owe my life to the people at the Helpdesk,” he says firmly in his Northern Irish brogue. “I would urge anyone with military connections who needs help of any sort to get in touch with them. I’m looking forward for the first time in years; I have a sense of purpose, have value in myself and can hold my head high once again. I’m aware this is a work in progress but with the support from people who understand my problems and needs, I know I can be of value to society, once again.”
Chairman of SSAFA Herefordshire Branch, Air Vice-Marshal Mike Smart, said: “SSAFA and TRBL set up the Helpdesk with the full support of Herefordshire Council as part of the efforts being made under the Armed Forces Community Covenant for serving and former members of the Armed Services in the county. The two charities are pleased to have made such a difference to Tom’s life and will continue to support him.”
The Military Charities Helpdesk is operating at the Customer Service Centre, Franklin House, Hereford on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 11.00 and 15.00.