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A Brighter Future for Disabled RAF Veterans

Worthing-based charity Care for Veterans has been awarded a grant of £20,000 by the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund. The grant has been given to support the charity’s mixed rehabilitation services, specifically for RAF veterans and their dependents.

Since 1919, the RAF Benevolent Fund has been the leading welfare charity supporting current and former members of the RAF, their partners and families, providing practical, emotional and financial support, whenever it is needed.

For over 104 years, Care for Veterans has provided care and rehabilitation to disabled ex-armed forces personnel. With rehabilitative, long-term, respite and award-winning palliative care services, Care for Veterans bridges the gap between healthcare and social services.

Care for Veterans longest-staying veteran and ex-mountaineer Andy Watkins joined the RAF in 1976.  After completing training at RAF Halton, Bucks, he was posted to RAF St Athan and later to Lossiemouth in Scotland. As part of the engineering team, Andy played a key role in preparing the Vulcan bombers for the Falklands War.

At just 41 years old, everything changed for Andy when he was hit by a car and sustained a traumatic brain injury. Andy’s sister Julie shared, “On the actual night of the accident, he got himself into the ambulance, walked into casualty and was in a cubicle when he suddenly passed out and became unresponsive. So, he obviously had a brain injury, and they didn’t have time to relieve the pressure on his brain”.

For the first six months following his accident, Andy was not cognitively aware, and eventually, it was realised that his speech had been greatly affected and his mobility impaired. After a period of rehabilitation in Bristol, and despite being only in his early forties, Andy found himself in a nursing home for the elderly without access to appropriate therapeutic care.

When Andy’s family found Care for Veterans in 2005, it was the facilities, modern style of the home and the shared military background among residents which told them they had made the right choice. Over the 18 years that Andy has lived at Care for Veterans, he has been able to improve and maintain his abilities, create friendships and go on exciting trips.

More recently, Andy has been on a weight loss mission to improve his overall health. Since February, and with help from care staff, Andy has been able to lose a further 5 kilograms and achieve a healthy BMI. He is currently undergoing assessments to see what help can be given to ensure he continues to have a safe swallow and manage his food appropriately. These assessments are carried out by the charity’s speech and language therapist. Physiotherapists will also be reviewing how best to support his lower limb strength and mobility.

Andy’s sister Julie commented, “Care for Veterans were our saviour. Andy could never have been anywhere better than here [Care for Veterans] because it’s been so supportive and responsive to his needs.  I love that when you bring him back here after he has been away for a week, he says “I’m home” – and it is his home”.

CEO of Care for Veterans Kate Schroder said, “We owe the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund a massive thanks for their kindness and generosity towards the RAF veterans in our care. Without their support, individuals like Andy would struggle to access the help they need to maintain the best possible quality of life”.

Irene Greenwood, RAF Station and External Grants Manager at the RAF Benevolent Fund, said: “Partnership working is an essential part of the Fund’s welfare support to the RAF Family, allowing us to get the expert help to the people who need it. The work that Care for Veterans undertakes is crucial and we are thrilled to be able to contribute, helping to meet the changing needs of the entire RAF Family.”

To find out more about Care for Veterans, click here.

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