A charity which has been caring for veterans for over a century has launched new services to support the Armed Forces community.
Royal Star & Garter is aiming to tackle isolation and loneliness by introducing a Telephone Friendship Service and Lunch Clubs.
The charity, which was formed in 1916 to help severely injured young men returning from the battlegrounds of the First World War, provides loving, compassionate care to veterans and their partners living with disability or dementia, from Homes in Solihull, Surbiton and High Wycombe.
The Telephone Friendship Service and Lunch Clubs are part of a series of new initiatives being developed by Royal Star & Garter to help the nation’s military family.
The free Telephone Friendship Service sees trained volunteers call veterans and their partners who live in their own homes, anywhere in the country. The aim is to provide support and a friendly voice to someone who is feeling lonely or isolated.
The first Lunch Clubs have been successfully held in each of Royal Star & Garter’s three Homes, in recent weeks. They consist of a two-hour visit with a two or three course meal, conversation and support from staff, and cost just £10 a session. People attending must be able to arrange their own transport to and from the Homes.
The Telephone Friendship Service has already drawn praise from users. Doreen, 84, is a full-time carer for her Army veteran husband Mac. She now receives regular calls, and said they are “a lifeline”. She said: “I look after my husband 24-7 and don’t go out unless it’s for a hospital appointment. So these calls mean everything to me. We used to be so busy and active, but after Mac’s stroke all that stopped and I stopped seeing my friends too. They’re a lifeline.”
Women’s Royal Army Corp veteran Pat added: “Lockdown wasn’t an easy time for anyone, and my world has shrunk as I no longer drive, and find walking increasingly difficult. So I think this is a very important new service, and I’m glad other people will also benefit from this.”
The Lunch Clubs have also been praised. Kevin’s mother was among those who attended, and he said: “She’s hardly been out since lockdown. I had to persuade Mum to attend, but she absolutely loved it. The staff made it a special day for her and the rest of the group. It seems a really good idea and well appreciated by all those who attended.”
Pauline Shaw is the Director of Care at Royal Star & Garter. She said: “We know that loneliness and social isolation are issues which need addressing in the Armed Forces community, and I’m glad that we’ve been able to do this with our Telephone Friendship Service and Lunch Clubs. These regular calls from a trained volunteer, or face-to-face contact and interaction with Lunch Clubs, can make all the difference to someone feeling lonely or isolated.”