AS they approach the first anniversary of the launch of Caerphilly Veterans Support Hub, the co-founders, Lisa Rawlings and Kelly Farr, reflect back over the last year.

On the opening session in June 2021, there were 4 veterans sat around a table. Fast forward to June 2022 and they regularly have 40+ veterans and their families at each session, sometimes many more! Veterans want to have opportunities to come together, to feel like they “belong” to something, like they did when they served.

There is a lot of support available for veterans, but many do not access the services, mainly down to pride. This support Hub is more than just banter and a brew; this is a vital lifeline for many and some of the veterans are very vocal about how life changing this past year has been for them, due to the incredible support they have received.

Each week different organisations attend, offering advice, support and assistance with issues such as benefits, housing, debt management and mental health. These organisations attend, free of charge and usually in their own time as the Hub is open on a Saturday morning; they have regular support visits from Cornerstone Support, Citizen’s Advice, Woody’s Lodge, Royal British Legion, Change Step, Department for Work and Pensions and YourNorth. In addition to the above support on offer, Guitars for Veterans – Wales are there each week, providing free guitar lessons for veterans and their families.

Over the past year, there have been several trips and events organised for veterans and their families, including the Wales v Fiji Autumn International match at the Principality Stadium, a Christmas Party for the families, trips to the National Memorial Arboretum and the Imperial War Museum and most recently a fundraising social evening at Senghenydd Rugby Club.

The main reasons for opening the Hub was to combat social isolation and loneliness, with a strong focus on improving mental wellbeing. There can often be other challenges faced by veterans during transition and integration into civilian life. In addition to these challenges, the restrictions and changes to our way over life that have unfolded over the last 2 years have affected so many people, and the Hub encourages people to start mixing with others, providing opportunities for support to improve their wellbeing.

These aims have been achieved by bringing together a group of like-minded individuals and creating a safe space where they can all share experiences, as much as they feel comfortable to do so, and learn from one another. Bringing a community of people together; combining support and access to regular activities are doing wonders for social cohesion and allowing people to gain confidence to interact and build a community that is supportive for everyone involved.

The Caerphilly Veterans Support Hub meet every Saturday at the Centre for Sporting Excellence, Ystrad Mynach, Caerphilly, CF82 7EP
10am – 12pm.  Email ArmedForces@caerphilly.gov.uk

By Gwynoro Jones

Former MP for Carmarthenshire, Gwynoro Jones joined the team covering politics in Wales. He has a wealth of experience in politics and has been a regular commentator on radio, TV and in newspapers in Wales. Email: gwynorojones@walesnewsonline.com

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