(L-R) Donna Yates, Community Director CGM CRC: Cllr Jed Philbin: Mayor of Halton: Nicky Murdoch, Chief Executive DMWS
The Ex-Forces Action Network (E-FAN), a new initiative designed to help former service personnel in Cheshire and Greater Manchester, was launched this week at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester.
Delegates from the veteran’s community, together with representatives from health bodies, charities and local government heard speakers from the Cheshire & Greater Manchester Community Rehabilitation Company (CGM CRC), who are responsible for delivering E-FAN, talk passionately about their commitment to the project.
Donna Yates, Community Director for CGM CRC, is tasked with heading up E-FAN and like many of those working on the project she is herself a veteran.
Donna said: “Today there is more than five million veterans in the UK, with more than half a million living in the North West alone. The overwhelming majority of them make a successful transition to civilian life but that fact remains that a significant number don’t, facing as they do a set of very specific problems.
“The forces provide excellent training in how to be a soldier, sailor or airman, but in the past they weren’t great at teaching you how to be a civilian once again. Some ex-forces personnel can struggle to find suitable housing and employment and this can lead to problems with debt.
“The sudden, abrupt transition to civilian life can also sometimes lead to a loss of self-esteem, leading to feelings of isolation and depression, which in turn can lead to, or exacerbate, problems with drink or drugs. This can lead to veterans coming into contact with the Criminal Justice System (CJS).
“We aim to tackle this head on by connecting veterans, who’ve had any contact with the CJS, to a wide range of services tailored specifically for those who’ve served in the British Armed Forces.”
Delegates also heard compelling stories from veterans including John, a former soldier. John said: ‘When I came out I didn’t really have anybody to help me understand the transition from army to civilian life. Through the choices I made I’ve spent some of my civilian life in custody and on probation.
“I’ve been out over ten years now and it’s taken me that long to find someone that I can talk to about the stuff I’ve done and been through, somebody that just gets it.
“I really can’t put into words how much the guys at E-FAN have helped me and my family. Sarah and Lanie have been so supportive and the work they’ve done has been so important in helping me put things in place to change my life.
“I honestly believe they can do the world of good for any veteran, or their family, who’s struggling with things. Take it from somebody who knows, somebody that has been there, you will find your purpose again.”
E-FAN is being delivered in partnership with the Defence Medical Welfare Service (DMWS) and their Chief Executive Nicky Murdoch, also a veteran, told the audience: “We’re delighted to be working alongside CGM CRC in delivering E-FAN.
“What DMWS can bring to the party is more than seven decades of experience of working with the British Armed Forces, giving us a deep understanding of the challenges and barriers that veterans can face in terms of healthcare.
“This experience will help ensure that services users will have access to the very best resources, expertise and advice to help them overcome these barriers and promote a swift return to health.
“This not only underpins the principles of the Armed Forces Covenant, by ensuring that veterans aren’t disadvantaged in their clinical care, it also ensures that they’re provided with both support and advocacy for both physical and mental health needs.”
Delegates were also addressed by guest speakers from Veterans’ Garage who spoke about what it was like to transition from military to civilian life, as well as their unique approach to providing support to veterans across the North West by providing a stable social hub, in which veterans can learn new skills and receive the support and advice.
The MOD’s new Covenant Grant Fund has funded E-FAN for two years with a grant of nearly half a million pounds. The Covenant Grant Fund forms part of the government’s long-term commitment to supporting projects designed to help veterans under the Armed Forces Covenant – the promise from the nation that those who serve or have served are treated fairly.