This well attended event drew over 30 representatives from across the region and reflected the interest in supporting the armed forces community in the region.
The issues of alcohol and veterans was covered by a presentation by Dr Sarah Wigham, Newcastle University, on research funded by Forces in Mind Trust. Her work dealt with evidence based interventions to tackle alcohol abuse in the veteran community. This multinational project drew heavily upon research from around the world and explored how this work can be adapted to meet the needs of veterans.
The forum discussed the complex issues relating to alcohol problems and veterans and the how the Mess/NAFI culture has evolved and the effect of cheap alcohol on serving personnel.
The forum was the opportunity of the incoming Royal British Legion, Advice and Information Officer, Ms Louise Liddell to introduce herself to the community and to brief the community on the Legion’s work in the Northumberland region.
The wider veteran support environment was explored, specifically there was an exploration of the Northumberland Outreach Worker Project by its representative Mr Jonny Harrison. Even though he had only been in post 10 weeks he was already working 25 cases, or which 70% involved mental health issues and described their project as being so busy they have had to advertise for another member of staff to help deliver services.
The new Albermarle Barracks Military Wives Choir, formed a year ago and has had a very successful appearance at Hexham Abbey and St Nicholas Cathedral. This Choir was formed with the express purpose of creating a supportive community rather than an award-winning choir and is made up of for wives, fiancées, and co-habiting partners, who might otherwise feel isolated.
The choir is also open to women serving in the armed services and female veterans, plus and wives, daughters of veterans. It is not restricted to Albermarle and is open to all who qualify across the region. It is now one of more than 200 military wives choirs across the UK. The Albermarle choir was set up because the nearest ones were in Catterick and Edinburgh.
The forum was a very useful meeting that allowed the VAPC to meet with other service providers and is an important part of the board’s engagement strategy.