LAST Tuesday saw two Branch members, Mr Gareth Jenkins and Mr Roger Sainsbury attend a Volunteer Update Day at the Officers’ Mess, Imjin Barracks, Innsworth, Gloucester.

The meeting was opened by Mr David Lowe South West Midlands Area Manager welcoming the attendees before handing over to Gail Waters who is the Assistant Director of Operations in the Midlands Region. Gail proceeded to inform the meeting that the Royal British Legion had been chosen by the Ministry of Defence to provide the Veterans Gateway. This new service will provide a 24/7 phone number, with an empathetic and professional voice at the end of the line, a dedicated website and a mobile app to make it easier for former service personnel to access support on a range of issues including housing, employability and health. It will give veterans, regardless of age or location, a simple point of contact to turn to for advice and help in accessing an array of public, private and charitable services which are out there. The Veterans Gateway has a go live date of mid-April 2017. The Royal British Legion is to build a further 2 Care Homes in the coming year. Gail handed over to Mark Riddle from Remembrance Travel who proceeded to inform the meeting of the LIBOR funded trips for Normandy Veterans to return to the Normandy beaches this year. In order to qualify for this the Veteran needs to have served in Normandy during Operation Overlord. The Veteran DOES NOT need to be a member of the Legion. There then followed a presentation by Meagan Levin & Kayleigh McFeeters on the Legion’s activities abroad. There are some 86 Branches of the Royal British Legion abroad, with Germany, France and Spain making up the majority of these. The branch in Cyprus raised over £20,000 for the Poppy Appeal last year. Julie Ponton then gave a presentation on Defence Medical Welfare Service who are there to help veterans who are over 65 and are receiving medical treatment. There then followed a much welcome and needed break for refreshments before resuming the meeting with a presentation from Jolandi du Preez a Lead Occupational Therapist for Combat Stress. Around 1 in 25 Regulars and 1 in 20 Reservists reported symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder following deployment in Afghanistan or Iraq. Furthermore 1 in 5 Veterans are likely to suffer from a common mental illness such as depression, anxiety or substance misuse. After the informative talk on Combat Stress followed a presentation from Paul Robinson on Independent Living. After an enjoyable lunch, Jenny Ward, Regional Team Manager from Naval Families Federation explained what that organisation does. On an average deployment, Naval personnel spend 1/3 more time away from their families than Army or Air Force personnel and this brings about its own challenges that the Naval Families Federation seek to overcome. The last of the guest speakers was Major (Retd) Ken Hames OBE. Ken help set up and runs the Self Build Project whereby homeless veterans build their own homes and in the process learn new skills. Currently Ken is working on a project in Weston Super Mare but other projects are planned in Cheltenham/Gloucester area, Wrexham & Newcastle. That concluded the main part of the day, then Lynn-Marie Power and David Lowe gave a short presentation on the value of the Volunteer which was followed by an open forum for questions and then the day closed at 16.00hrs. Both the Branch representatives found the day interesting and informative.