SSAFA’s free and confidential helpline, Forcesline, has seen a dramatic 260% increase in requests for support through their online webchat, whilst witnessing a drop in telephone enquiries.
Forcesline has witnessed a rise in the requests for help using their live webchat platform that is accessible to all members of the Armed Forces community, including serving personnel, veterans, and their families.
In June 2020, Forcesline received 88 requests for support via their webchat service. During the same time in 2021, the charity witnessed a huge rise in the requests for support with 317 enquires – an increase of 260% from the same time during 2020.
Over the last 18 months, many of us have been living in close proximity to our friends and family, which may lead to those in need reaching out virtually to save the risk of being overheard on the phone. The rise in usage of their online webchat is extremely positive and means that more people have reached out for help as we have eased out of lockdown.
Whilst people have continued to contact SSAFA by email for help, with an 18% increase in requests for assistance, the Forcesline team reported a fall in telephone enquiries, from 1,641 from the same period in 2020 to 1,056 in 2021.
The Forcesline team of specialist helpline advisors say that the most prevalent issues that have been brought to them by the Armed Forces community over the last year are:
- Guidance around debt
- Help with housing
- The need for household goods, such as washing machines and fridge-freezers
- Mental Health, particularly loneliness and isolation
- Mobility Issues
Bill Grant, Forcesline Manager at SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity, said: “We’re witnessing a great change in the way people are contacting us for support. In June 2021, we saw a 35% drop in our telephone calls, but an increase in requests for support through our webchat facility. As our lives have changed over the last year, even more people are seeking new ways to receive advice and support, whether that be via email or an online web chat.”
“Since the Web Chat was launched in 2019, we have seen a rise in the demand for our online service. The technology eliminates the nerves that some people may feel when calling a helpline, making it easier for people to reach out for support.”
“We want to urge anyone in the Forces community who is suffering with the feeling of being on their own, to reach out and keep talking. Communication is an excellent way to deal with problems and source solutions – whether that be through SSAFA’s Forcesline or speaking to a friend.”
“SSAFA has adapted in many ways to support you safely and we want to share the message that we are here – as we always are.”
Matt Colley* knew things needed to change for the sake of his children. After the breakdown of a 10-year relationship, Matt was homeless for a time. He was left having to share a single bed with his young daughter, while his two-year-old son slept in a cot beside him. Matt, who had served in the Royal Dragoon Guards, contacted SSAFA’s Forcesline. From that point his life turned around.
“I called SSAFA’s Forcesline number. They answered quickly and it didn’t take long. I explained that I was homeless and asked about the charity and what they might be able to do to support me. They contacted my local branch in West Yorkshire and I was soon assigned a caseworker from my local area called Elaine Bartlett.
“Elaine came to meet me at my mum’s house. We sat down, discussed my details and my case and she made me feel like I was getting somewhere. Straight away she gave me vital information that I didn’t know, for example that as ex-Forces I was ‘Band A’ high priority for housing.
“I didn’t have my documents from my time serving in the Army, because I was living out of a small bag and moving constantly, so Elaine helped me to get copies of all my documents to give to Leeds City Council, so I could apply for housing again. It took a long time, but with support from SSAFA, I finally managed to get a council property which was such a relief. The moment I found out I was on my way home from my job working as a manager at a primary school. When they told me I just cried.”
SSAFA has been supporting the Armed Forces community for more than 136 years and all too often see that if concerns around employment, finances and mental health are not addressed early, these can often escalate to a stage where more drastic intervention is necessary.
Everyone faces different challenges, so SSAFA takes a tailored approach to meet the individual needs. A call or message to Forcesline can be the start of the journey and SSAFA is there to support the Armed Forces family every step of the way.
If you are a member of the Armed Forces, a veteran or a family member in need, contact Forcesline (which is independent from the chain of command) on 0800 260 6767 or use the live chat service at ssafa.org.uk/get-help/forcesline.
Forcesline is open Monday-Friday, 09:00-17:30.