Irwin Mitchell | Focus on Military | Again Making Fit

The noun ‘rehabilitation’ comes from the Latin prefix re meaning ‘again’ and habitare, ‘make fit’; a perfect description for what the charity FirstLight Trust does.

The media is full of pictures of the Invictus Games; of Armed Forces personnel undertaking extraordinary feats of physical prowess. The Armed Forces, after all, are renowned for their physical fitness, and for many of those who have lost limbs, part of their lives, the road to recovery is defined by physical fitness and success in that field. Hard fought and hard won.

But rehabilitation is not only about physical fitness. For many of the veterans that FirstLight supports, getting out of bed and facing the day is in itself a massive achievement. And the charity understands that, for veterans, ‘again make fit’ manifests itself in as many different ways as there are veterans. Quite simply, FirstLight Trust supports veterans from all over the UK to ‘again make fit’. In Scarborough the charity has become ‘point’ for veterans.

The police, probation, local housing associations, councils, SSAFA, and RBL all refer into the charity. A comprehensive assessment is carried out, and then the next steps agreed with the veteran – whatever those are. It can be finding housing, solving debt issues, assisting in making GP appointments, CV writing, job hunting, or, and most importantly, empathetic support and a chat over a brew. The miracle of a chat over a large mug of tea should never be underestimated. In fact, so important is that ability to communicate over a brew, and offload concerns, or have a joke, that every drop in that FirstLight provides has a café – named Sharpes after the hero of FirstLight’s patron, Bernard Cornwell OBE. And whilst great coffee and good tea is not a panacea for all ills, the fact that there is a café/shop that is veteran friendly and open at least 6 days a week creates a bond of security and trust. Combine that with an emergency phone line manned 24/7 and veterans who contact FirstLight know that their concerns will be addressed.

FirstLight is currently Yorkshire-based, with a hub in Scarborough, and another being created in Redcar. The intent is to create a national network of support at grass-roots for those ‘hard to reach’ veterans who have often fallen through the charitable net. As the charity is needs based, the aim is to create hubs in places where there is little that is ‘joined up’ in the way of veteran services. Each hub will consist of a charity shop/café or coffee bar, and offices with workshop/ support facilities. The charity aims to be as self-funding as possible – and the charity shop not only provides income and a vital, visible portal on the high street but also provides access into local communities. This local knowledge is vital to the charity’s work. Being based within a veteran’s community is vital to supporting their rehabilitation and enabling them to become part of the life of that community by accessing its services, support and social life. All of this work would be impossible if it were not for all the other agencies and services that FirstLight works with to deliver the thousands of pounds worth of services it accesses on behalf of its veterans.

There is no point in re-inventing the wheel except where it is broken or there is a gap (and FirstLight does that by funding what is not available). The problem for many veterans is that they have no idea where to access these services. By creating an accessible, veteran friendly point on the street, on the web and by working with other agencies, FirstLight can facilitate that access and assistance. And, what is more, it then follows it up. Additionally, and somewhat unusually, FirstLight supports all veterans, including those from the Reservists as well as the Emergency Services, those who have signed up for one day, the dishonourably discharged and those who self-medicate on drugs and alcohol. FirstLight will work with rehabilitation centres, trauma centres, detox centres and the probation service. It will do whatever it takes to support those who simply don’t know where to go or what to do – for them FirstLight is the charity of last resort. Some veterans will be supported Dorinda Wolfe Murray Founding Trustee, FirstLight Trust E: dwm@firstlighttrust.co.uk by the charity for six weeks; some for the rest of their lives. It can be as simple as buying a bus ticket to enable a veteran to get home from his detox programme (AB, for example, had walked 26 miles to get there only to find that his support worker was away and they had not seen fit to inform him; luckily he then had his first appointment with us) or as complicated as case management for life.


Autumn 2016 (PDF)

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