Sunderland armed forces charity facing cash crisis

Sunderland Remembrance Day Service and Parade 2013

Sunderland Remembrance Day Service and Parade 2013

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A LIFELINE organisation which provides help to thousands of ex-Armed Forces personnel on Wearside is facing a cash crisis, bosses said today.

Sunderland’s Armed Forces Network (SAFN) was set up to help more than 25,000 veterans in the city as they re-adjust to life on Civvy Street.

The group helps former service personnel to find work, homes and basic living needs for them and their families.

But chiefs today admitted urgent investment of £20,000 is needed to continue the work.

“When we set the network up nearly four years ago, we never envisaged that we would need money to help our city’s veterans and service personnel,” said SAFN chairman Graham Hall.

“As time has moved on, we have found it absolutely crucial that we have funds in place to help the Armed Forces community.

“Many of the problems do unfortunately have a financial implication and quick, early intervention often resolves the issue before it escalates out of control.

“We need to build our funds so we can make a quick intervention when required. It is not just the ex-service person that is involved, but often their partners and their children and we have proved quick, effective and decisive action is the best way of dealing with many of the problems.

“It’s a continuing national disgrace that we ask these men and women to go and do extraordinary things and then dump them with limited or no support.”

SAFN say that of the veterans leaving active service, nine per cent will end up having a custodial sentence, 13 per cent will develop a dependency to drugs or drink, almost 10 per cent will suffer from a mental health issue and up to 30 per cent will be homeless at some stage.

The network is now calling on individuals, pubs, clubs and businesses from Sunderland to dig deep and support them by holding fund-raising events or hosting collection boxes.

SAFN is also hoping to recruit an “army” of volunteers who can be called upon from time to time to help out with activities. Mr Hall added: “All donations go to those who need help. The money is donated in Sunderland and will stay in Sunderland.

“Some national charities have recently been criticised for giving as little as 49 per cent of what they collect to those they claim to help.

“Often money donated in Sunderland for all kinds of causes disappear to other areas of the country or even abroad and the community do not see the benefit of those donations.

“We guarantee none of the donations will go on offices, cars, wages or any other form of expenses.

“We are all volunteers and we are passionate about helping those in our armed forces community that need help.

“We raise all of our administration finances separately from our care and Support funding.”

To find out how to help the Armed Forces community, go to www.safn.org.uk, search for its Facebook page or email sunderlandafn@gmail.com.

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War veteran relied on food parcels

GULF War veteran Graeme MacDonald was left the depressed, hungry and relying on food parcels after he left the Army following 12 years of service.

He was just 18 when he signed up for the Army and was first posted to Germany as part of the Royal Corps of Transport regiment, before being sent to Iraq in 1991.

The 46-year-old, of Hendon, had also suffered from a catalogue of health problems but, thanks to SAFN he managed to get back on his feet.

Graeme, who was left without money after his employment support allowance was stopped late last year, said: “The armed forces network gave me reassurance.

“They told me I was not a scrounger and that I shouldn’t be ashamed to ask for help.

“I feel I was let down on my return to Civvy Street, simply because the help I needed was not there, and I’m sure there are many more out there like me.

“The service the network provides for veterans is essential because we get very little from the Ministry of Defence.

“The network, and Graham Hall in particular, have sorted me out and for that I will be eternally grateful.”