Last year, SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity were awarded a grant by the DCMS to help alleviate loneliness and isolation amongst the Armed Forces community during the Covid-19 outbreak and pandemic.
Part of this grant was dedicated to SSAFA’s Forcesline, a free and confidential telephone helpline, email and webchat service.
Forcesline is available to all members of the Armed Forces community, including serving personnel, veterans and their families.
The helpline acts as a ‘front’ door’ to the wider support services offered by the charity and beyond. Forcesline can be a telling indicator for the overall wellbeing of the military community currently serving (regulars and reserves), veterans and their families.
The service allows individuals the space and time to discuss their problems with an experienced advisor, who can offer an ear to listen, for as long as they need. Many callers contact Forcesline having not spoken to anyone about their issues or experiences, and the ability to talk to another person who listens to them can make a huge difference.
The support offered to those feeling lonely and isolated will vary and the individual will often be referred to a local SSAFA branch or signposted to another SSAFA service, or one of our partner organisations, to help with their specific needs.
As lockdown started to lift in June 2020, there was an instant 7% uplift in contact (vs. June 2019) illustrating that people needed support facing these new and difficult times.
Additionally, compared to the previous year, Forcesline had an 80% increase in requests from April to June specifically for befriending and support with loneliness, highlighting the need for support amongst the Armed Forces community.
SSAFA’s expert advisors from the Forcesline team have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic, and thanks to the DCMS grant, SSAFA were able to upgrade their equipment to allow them to work from home and continue supporting those in need during the pandemic.
Bill Grant, Forcesline Manager at SSAFA said: “Thanks to the DCMS Grant, we were able to fund computers and other accessories for our team of Forcesline advisors to work from home during the pandemic. Our team were working consistently throughout and after the lockdown and their work never stopped.”
“Across the globe, we have seen a cutting of the support systems that keep us feeling grounded and human – social distancing brings a hidden cost as people feel isolated and scared to reach out. Not being able to have a friendly coffee or meet up with family has left many people feeling adrift. It is our job to continue supporting them and give them the space to explore their feelings and talk about what’s going on for them.”
“I think it is important to remember that loneliness and isolation isn’t just something that people on their own feel. You can feel very lonely in a room full of people, including your family and friends. I would encourage anyone experiencing these feelings to reach out and get in touch – we’re here to help.”
If you would like to find out more about SSAFA, visit www.ssafa.org.uk