Mr S was born in Malaya and consequently spent the early years of his childhood living in the Far East. His father was in the RAF and served a total of 22 years at various military establishments. Mr S recalls a transient lifestyle and a childhood spent travelling from one posting to another as the family followed his father throughout his career. He describes his early family life as happy and stable but interspersed with violent incidents due to the need to re-establish himself in each new school setting he was sent to. His father, a strict disciplinarian taught him how to box and instilled in him a belief that the use of violence was both a necessary and a required part of the growing up process. This led to his believing that problems were solved through the ‘use of the fists’ as opposed to negotiations. His parents are still alive, he has regular contact and has a supportive relationship with his two siblings.

At the age of 18 he joined the RAF and served 9 years in various locations around the world reaching the rank of Senior Aircraftsman Technician (SAC). He left the military at the request of his then wife whom he subsequently divorced and it was at this point he began to misuse alcohol. This was followed by a 3 year period with ‘4 Para’ a Territorial Army branch of the Parachute Regiment. During this time he was employed in numerous low paid roles as a cleaner or security guard and even took up a ‘live in’ position as a handyman at an Outdoor Pursuits Centre as he was provided with food and accommodation as part of the contract.

In the year 2000 he secured a paid position with a Military Preparation Centre in Newcastle as a Training Team Instructor, this was a job he really enjoyed and excelled at. Sadly, in 2004 whilst on a night out drinking alcohol with friends he fell from a balcony in a shopping precinct and broke his spine in 3 places, fractured his skull and suffered a collapsed lung. Not surprisingly he was kept in intensive care for 6 weeks and was on a high dependency ward for a further 14 weeks before returning home.

As a direct result of this accident he lost his job as a Training Instructor and recalls becoming depressed and socially isolated. At the time he was and indeed still is, heavily medicated by his GP specialist and attends a pain management clinic. He states that it was during this period that he began to consume a considerable amount of alcohol on top of his prescribed medication, a pattern of behaviour that he maintained for some years.

At the time of his arrest for a serious offence of violence he was under the influence of alcohol and prescribed medication. Sadly, Mr S was also the victim of a serious assault that resulted in his being stabbed seven times. He chose not to report this matter to the Police but admits to having suicidal thoughts and related psychological trauma that may be associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. (PTSD)

His physical condition has been in gradual decline and he now reports having bowel and bladder complications which are directly related to the accident and the injuries he incurred. Mr S is coming to terms with the fact that he will never be able to enjoy the active lifestyle that was once so important to his physical and mental wellbeing.

Mr S also recognises that he did not make the transition from the military to the civilian community particularly well. He claims to have missed the camaraderie and the variety of experience that military life afforded him. Indeed his identity is very much orientated to that of the Armed forces ‘Veteran’ and admits to having experienced a sense of disconnection with main stream society.

Good Practice

In January 2011 ‘Forward Assist’ were informed by the Probation Service that an ex forces veteran was due in court for sentence for a serious offence of alcohol related violence. He was contacted by letter and telephone and visited at home by a team member (ex forces) and asked if he wanted to access the support the team offered. Forward Assist met with Mr S prior to his Court appearance and a letter was sent to his legal representative indicating that Forward Assist were prepared to work with him and that he had agreed to engage with the organisation prior to and during the course of any disposal made by the court.

Mr S was sentenced to a 12 month Community Rehabilitation Order with an additional Suspended Prison sentence. He was also made aware that a 12 month Anti-Social Behavioural Order had been imposed which effectively meant that should he commit another offence or infringe his tenancy agreement then he risked being evicted.

Forward Assist adopt a proactive approach, whereby we visit ex-forces personnel at their home address and accompany them to appointments in the initial stages of their probation order or licence conditions. This has been shown to encourage compliance with those who have failed to engage in the community in the past. Indeed, Mr S was initially suspicious of the close working relationship between Forward Assist and the Probation service, however he now works very well with all parties and this has helped to change his previously negative and hostile attitude towards those in authority.

It is to Mr S credit that since he has engaged with Forward Assist in January 2011 he has attended a total 43 sessions of the Newcastle based Forward Assist Veteran– centric ‘peer led’ support groups. The groups meet on a weekly basis and when including travel time this activity accounts for a total of 3 hours.

He has also taken part in all the activities provided by Forward Assist and whilst not physically able to do some of the more physically demanding tasks he has throughout the year proved to be a great supporter to those group members that lack confidence or are socially isolated, providing lifts to several members to ensure that they themselves comply with their probation orders or attend group sessions.

  • Group work 129 hours
  • Angling (Fly Fishing)160 hours
  • Football Tournament (Project Management) 8 hours
  • Horse Back (Equine Therapy) UK504 hours
  • Conference Participation 24 hours
  • Alcohol Awareness Course 30 hours
  • Horticulture/Allotment 20hours
  • Presentations 8 hours
  • Car boot/fundraising activities 8 hours
  • CPN led Mental Health Wellbeing Course 30 hours
  • Social events (Alcohol free) 8 hours
  • Supporting other Veterans 40 hours

This equates to a total of 969 hours of positive structured time provided by Forward Assist over a 12 month period.

Outcomes

  

Accommodation

Permanent accommodation with no threat of eviction due to compliance with Anti Social Behaviour Order.

Education, Training and Employment

Veteran gains recognised qualification

Engaged in Voluntary work with About Turn.

Health

Physical health matters supervised by specialist medical staff

Reduction in self harm

Drugs and Alcohol

Reduction in Drugs/Alcohol taking.

OCN qualification in ‘Alcohol Awareness’

Due to start Drugs Awareness Course in Feb 2012

Finance Benefits and Debt

Benefits and entitlements addressed

Has had direct contact with Debt Advisor via About Turn peer led support group.

Children and Families

Improved contact with Children family and friends

Improved relationship with ex wife.

Attitude Thinking and Behaviour

Successful Completion of CRO

Increased motivation to change

Keen to gain recognised qualifications to support other veterans

Mr S is no longer subject to the conditions imposed by his Community based Court order and this effectively means that any support he would have had from the Probation Service is no longer available to him, however it is evident that he will continue to require support for some considerable time. This will be especially important given his deteriorating physical health needs.

Plans are in place to ensure the continuation of support through the Forward Assist Veteran Support network and Mr S has accepted our offer of voluntary contact in order to facilitate this, which is indicative of the close working relationship fostered by staff on the scheme. This case study highlights the need for services such as Forward Assist’s Veteran Support scheme as it is more able to respond to crisis outside of office hours, accurately assess need, work through set backs and chaperone individuals to appropriate support services when needed.

Mr S has taken up the opportunity of involving himself in the organisation and running of the Newcastle branch of the Forward Assist Veterans Support Group. He also took part in the 8 week Safe, Sensible and Social Alcohol Awareness Training Course that was designed by Forward Assist specifically for veterans and delivered in collaboration with an expert in addictions.  It is to M S’s credit that the Course Tutor described him as the most committed group member on the course. He is seen in the picture below being presented with the Open College Network qualification by Cllr Lawrence Hunter from Newcastle City Council.

Mr S has not reoffended during or since his Community Rehabilitation Order was imposed. In January 2012 Mr S was awarded a Forward Assist ‘Tour of Duty’ award at a small celebratory meal in recognition of his progress during the course of the year. Mr S continues to access the support of Forward Assist and has taken on a volunteer role within the organisation enabling other veterans involved with Forward Assist to access the ‘peer led’ support groups and the gymnasium sessions (3 X week) provided by Sage (UK) Ltd.

He has also been asked to co-facilitate the 8 week accredited Forward Assist ‘Veteran specific’ Alcohol Awareness Course (OCN level 3) due to be rolled out in Sunderland in March 2012.                               

Mr. S found the residential weeks in Scotland particularly helpful to him. The Project and his participation was ‘risk assessed’ by the MD of Forward Assist (Former Probation Officer) in collaboration with the supervising Probation Officer prior to his visit. Equine therapy has proved to be a very therapeutic intervention. The veterans work with specifically chosen and trained American Quarter Horses. These horses; trained in the western style of riding, have been bred as working horses and are required to be strong, calm and to perform every maneuver asked of them with minimum demand.

For those with physical injuries the horses provide mobility, assist them to achieve tasks and allow current and ex service personnel to access the countryside with dignity. For clients who are struggling with mental health issues as a result of PTSD, the horses are used in a therapeutic role.

“…..escaping into the middle of nowhere away from the drug dealers that stabbed me reminds me of a better life. I have to thank Forward Assist and all the Veterans I spend time with as I now feel like I have a purpose in life! When I went to the Equine Therapy Centre in Scotland I did not want to come back. I look forward to returning soon. Fantastic!!

To whom it may concern,

 From Mr S

“To introduce myself I am Mr S aged 52.  I have served for a total of 12 years in the Armed Forces. When I left the forces I found it hard to fit in with civilian life. I had never been in trouble with the Police. After a bad accident involving spinal damage resulting in me loosing a job I loved, as a senior instructor at a Military Preparation Centre. I started self isolating and developed a drink problem.

A house directly across from where I live was newly inhabited by drug dealers; they showed no care to the wellbeing of the kids that have played in this street for years. A lot of heroin users started turning up and this drew a lot of attention. With one of the fathers from the street we approached them and a fight broke out and I was stabbed seven times. Once I was out of hospital I got wound up over the fact I had to have hepatitis C & B and HIV tests as the knife and screwdriver used on me was dirty. I went across to the address after having a drink armed with a meat cleaver. I was arrested and charged with a bladed article in a public place and damaging property. I received an eight week suspended prison sentence and a year’s Probation Order.

I also received a years order on the property I live in off the council. They could evict me with just two weeks notice.

The Duty Probation Officer who was ex forces who was writing my Pre-sentence report- put me in touch with Tony Wright and Forward Assist Veterans Support.

Tony who is ex service and Probation gave me immediate support and a letter to the Courts, he also put me onto a Safe Sensible and Social Alcohol Awareness Course. I got a lot out of this and have received a level two qualification. The facilitator Rowena has asked me to co-facilitate the next one with her at level 3.

At present I am on a Veterans Mental Health course and would love to get involved with the next one. I have attended Horseback UK in Aberdeen three times and have a positive view on what we as a team have done to help other veterans and we support each other a lot of the time.

I have attended meetings on Civic level supported charity events, travelled to Wales as a representative for Tony and Forward Assist. I had a great laugh with boys whilst fishing and at present laying plans for charity events including the organisation of the West Highland Way and Car Boot sales. All of this has played an important part of me not re-offending, self isolating and drinking and it has also given me a reason to look to the future!

"It is a crying shame that I had to get into trouble to achieve all of this.”

Mr S.