Veterans in the Worthing area will find help easier to access with the launch of a new drop-in centre.
A number of charities and organisations have come together to provide information and advice in one place, once a month.
The Worthing Veterans Drop In Centre launched at the Richmond Rooms, Stoke Abbott Road, yesterday and was officially opened by mayor Paul Baker.
Steve Hinton, support and outreach worker for the Armed Forces, explained: “The centre offers a friendly place for veterans, their families and carers to drop in and seek help or advice, as well as to meet other veterans and have a chat about old times.
“People can drop in and access any sort of information they need to help them with their particular problems. If anybody walks in with problems or issues, we will be abled to direct them around to get them some help.
“As long as somebody as served one day, he is entitled to be called a veteran, from the 18 year old all the way to 102 years old, regardless of whether they did National Service or not.
“A lot of people, when they have issues, they don’t like standing up and saying they need help, so we have opened this one-stop location. Hopefully we can grow this to have break-out rooms at the back where people can talk more privately.
“Once established, we will be offering free taxi rides for the old and disabled who cannot make it into the centre under their own steam. We also aim to have a carers support group which will offer respite, workshops and peer support.”
The centre will become part of the national Association of ex-Service Drop-In Centres.
Malcolm Farrow, general secretary of the association, said: “I am thrilled to see this. It is exactly the sort of thing we hope to see.
“Our purpose is to link the centres together so people setting them up independently don’t feel isolated. We want them to network and to share knowledge and ideas.
“There is a lot of help around for veterans but it can be confusing to access because there is so much of it. With the drop-in centres, if you are stuck, you can walk into the place, a warm arm goes around your shoulder and you are suddenly not isolated any longer.”
Julia Molony, found of Ripple Pond, spoke to Mr Baker about the self-help support network for families of physically and emotionally injured service personnel and veterans.
She explained it came from her own experience as the mother of soldiers injured in Afghanistan and finding the Army would deal only with the wives, leaving her feeling left out.
She said: “You feel so isolated. With our support network, people get seen and heard. You can say what ever you like and it is understood.
“We also foster independence and encourage people to instigate their own recovery.”
Jane Burt explained the work of the Sussex Armed Forces Network, a multi-organisational group set up in 2011.
She said: “We make sure people who have left the armed forces are accessing the proper services. A lot of them have problems accessing GPS because they don’t know how to.
“We train people to be armed forces champions and to find out more about their mental health. We have 450 champions now, so the message is getting out there.”
Worthing Veterans Drop In Centre will be open on the first Tuesday of the month, 11am to 1pm. Refreshments will be available and as it grows, break-out rooms will become available for discussions in private.