Sophie Napleton, Community Engagement Worker for West Sussex

Friday 13th August 2021

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

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 they may not be aware of.

They will get to know the social activities, groups and associations across Hampshire and West Sussexand work with individuals to understand what the barriers are to them becoming more socially engaged and help them to overcome that, from attending a veterans’ breakfast club with someone for the first time, to establishing activities where none currently exist.

Sophie Napleton, Community Engagement Worker for West Sussex, is an RAF spouse so knows from her own experience what it’s like to be a part of the RAF Family. She is currently living at RAF Odiham where her husband is stationed.

She 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.”

The scheme has run successfully in Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk for the past two years. 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 Hampshire and West Sussex where we know there are many RAF veterans and their partners living.”

In 2020, the Fund supported 240 people living in Hampshire, awarding them more than £35K in grants. Help ranged from providing support with care costs and mobility aids to providing a weekly Check and Chat call.

If you know a veteran or their partner in need visit to see if the Fund can help.

Image: Sophie Napleton, Community Engagement Worker for West Sussex. Photo: RAF Benevolent Fund

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