RAF Benevolent Fund: Successful Community Engagement Worker project expands to West Sussex

A scheme to support RAF veterans who are lonely and socially isolated has been extended to cover West Sussex.

Monday, 16th August 2021, 2:09 pm

The Community Engagement Worker (CEW) project was launched in 2019 in response to research carried out by the RAF Benevolent Fund, which discovered feelings of social isolation and loneliness were greater among older members of the RAF Family.

The CEWs offer one-to-one support for RAF veterans and their partners, helping them to find like-minded people and access support services.

The scheme has been running successfully in Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk for the past two years and is now being extended to West Sussex and Hampshire.

Sophie Napleton, who lives at RAF Odiham, will be working with RAF veterans in West Sussex. Picture: RAF Benevolent Fund

The CEWs will get to know social activities, groups and associations across the county and work with individuals to understand what barriers there are to stop them becoming more socially engaged. They will then help them to overcome any barriers, for example going with them to a club for the first time and establishing activities where none currently exist.

Sophie Napleton, who lives at RAF Odiham in Hampshire, where her husband is stationed, said: “I’m so proud to be able to work to support the RAF Family I am a part of. Military service is a big part of my life and I can’t wait to use that experience to help others.

“This past year has been difficult for everyone, especially our older more vulnerable community members who have been shielding from the virus.

“I’m hopeful as restrictions ease, we can get back out there meeting veterans and their partners and help them to become part of society again.”

During the lockdown and early months of the pandemic, CEWs were able to support veterans and their loved ones virtually with check-and-chat calls and signposting them to other support services.

Pete Ashcroft, head of community welfare programmes at the RAF Benevolent Fund, said: “The CEWs have been invaluable throughout the pandemic, checking in with veterans and ensuring they remain connected to the RAF Family.

“I’m delighted to be able to expand this service into West Sussex, where we know there are many RAF veterans and their partners living.”

If you know a veteran or their partner in need, visit rafbf.org/veterans to see if the RAF Benevolent Fund can help.