Forces Link Carlisle and Eden

The ‘Forces Link’ Carlisle and Eden project has been in operation since June 2019 and was set up to help increase opportunity and support for our local ex-service community and their families.

The project has had a positive first 6 months and has really benefitted from being part of the Cumbria CVS team. The links and level of knowledge within the team has made life much easier and allowed the project to reach places that wouldn’t have been possible had it been based elsewhere. So, I start my update with a massive thank you to the team and I look forward to seeing what we can achieve in the coming months.

The project has had some great impact so far and we have learnt a lot about our local ex-service community and their needs – through speaking with them at established clubs and meetings but also by asking them to come and give us thoughts and ideas  – so that we can move forward making sure their voices are heard and we develop in a way that meets their needs. Here are a few examples of the things we have done so far…

We are pleased to say that we have teamed up with Forces Connect South East to input our local area information onto the ‘Forces Connect’ App. After the positive feedback we received following the training they provided last year, we are happy to be working with them again. We think that the app is a great tool to help increase knowledge of ex-service support available in our area. The app is easy to use with simple navigation and FREE to download (Google play and apple). It enables the entire Armed Forces community (ex-service personnel, current serving, reservists and families) as well as community practitioners access details of available services such as crisis support, employment, education, family support, care and benefits, health and wellbeing, housing and homelessness. It is not an exhaustive list of charities or organisations but it provides a comprehensive list of services that have been approved by us and our partners.

Through speaking to our local ex-service community and caseworkers we found that there was a desire to see more health and wellbeing activities available. As a result of this, we supported Penrith Pumas Wheelchair Rugby Club to establish in Penrith leisure Centre and they now play every Tuesday 7pm – 9pm; Richie became a Walking for Health Leader with Active Cumbria and is now leading a veterans and families walk in Bitts Park every Wednesday at 12:30pm from Dacre Road pay and display and is looking to establish a walk in Penrith in the near future.

We attended a health conference in November where we gave information about a Veteran friendly GP accreditation through the Royal College of General Practitioners. Since then we’ve been working in partnership with North Cumbria CCG and they’re recommending that Veterans friendly GP practices are part of the Quality Incentive Scheme from April 2020. Since attending the GP conference, four more GP practices have signed up to the scheme.

Our ex-service supporters’ network is now back up and running with our next meeting on Monday 6 April 2020 here at CVS Shaddongate. This is a great opportunity to find out what’s going on locally for ex-service support and to share any opportunities you may have to offer.

We are supporting the Cumbria Employers Recognition Scheme event at Rheged on Tuesday 25 February 2020. Come along and find out more about the scheme and look at how your business or organisation could sign up to become a forces friendly employer: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/cumbria-defence-employer-recognition-scheme-ers-event-2020-tickets-86791552871?aff=ebdssbdestsearch

We look forward to the next phase of our project, we will continue to listen, to learn and to develop to be able to give the best support we can for our local ex-service community and their families.

In the meantime, if you would like to find out more, contact Richie Hinson on 01768 800350 or email richard.hinson@cumbriacvs.org.uk