An Update from FirstLight Trust

What have we been doing since lock down?

We wanted to give you an update on what we have been doing since lock down. Our Hubs may have closed their actual doors in March but our virtual doors have still remained open. During this time, we have continued to deliver support to veterans particular to their needs e.g. housing, employment, money and debt management or through the hundreds of phone calls we have made, as a listening ear just to say hello and alleviate the isolation being felt. The restrictions of lockdown significantly increased loneliness and isolation for many veterans, one way we tackled this was by offering more emotional support through activities. We have been working with veterans to build their self-esteem and state of wellbeing giving them the confidence to ask for help when they need it.

We have delivered many activities, ranging from things to do at home, virtual sessions such as ‘Brew and a Chat’, art therapy to cooking sessions which have been a tasty experience for all. Out in the fresh air veterans have taken part in walks, cycle rides transformed the garden spaces we have in Gosport and Scarborough and crops have been plentiful.  

We have been incredibly grateful to the people who have supported and funded us during this time to enable us to do the work so vitally needed, and now more than ever. However, the sincerest gratitude must go to our amazing team who without them our organisation would be nothing and veterans would not receive the support they do.  

So, what are we planning for the months ahead?

We know the considerable impact our Hubs make to veterans, we are not just a café, we are a place where socialising is a key part of what makes up the welcoming safe space for all our community. Due to the current restrictions on social distancing, opening our Hubs to offer what we offered previously has thrown us a challenge.  Having consulted with our teams we have been unable to come up with a safe affordable solution to open our Hubs that still provides that safe welcoming space where veterans can just drop in and out as needed like we had pre-covid.  Lots of groups of people meeting in confined spaces is not recommended and we support some very vulnerable adults, who we don’t want to place at risk.  Ultimately, we are here for veterans and our focus has to be on continuing to support veterans at this time.  That does not mean our Hubs will not open, they will just open in a different way, for veterans only for now until we are in a position to open them to the whole community.  

What will this look like?

We know that some veterans need face to face and that using Zoom is not what meets their needs.  With this in mind from the 31st August, provided no further government restrictions are put in place we intend to do a 2 week trial of holding face to face pre booked 1-1’s in our Hawick Hub.  If this works as planned this will be rolled out across our Hubs, Hub by Hub.

We are also intending to trial from mid-September, starting in our Gosport Hub a pre-booked group activity for up to 6 veterans in our Gosport Hub.  Social distancing measures will of course be put in place.

We know the difference the support we give to veterans makes, as they tell us.  They also tell us the impact activities have on them, being able to socialise and not feel isolated makes all the difference.  For this reason, we are working to ensure veterans have access to increasing numbers of activities as we know this helps wellbeing and gives a purpose. We are working at local level to connect with people who can deliver differing activities and on securing the funding to pay for these sessions.

We are still very much here to provide vital support to veterans of the armed forces and emergency services as we always have done.  If you know of any veteran in need of help please send them in our direction.

Dorinda Wolfe Murray, CEO