LISTEN: Steve Rowarth explains how the SSAFA helps local veterans
Local veteran, Major Steve Rowarth is a name many in Highland Perthshire may be familiar with because of his work with Loch Rannoch Conservation Association however many may not know of the incredible work he does with veterans’ charity, SSAFA.
Major Rowarth joined the Soldiers and Sailors Families Association (SSAFA) when he retired from the Army in 2012, looking for a purposeful way to help others as he had done throughout his life in active service and by training other Army Officers.
Major Rowarth said:
“When you leave the army, your sense of identity disappears. What grounds you in your life almost goes away almost overnight and you do become a bit lost really.
“I think it takes about 18 months to two years for a veteran to kind of find his feet again and get back into the world, because you’ve lived a pretty sheltered life.
“When you’re in the military to a certain extent you’re told when to get up, you’re told when to eat, you’re told when to go to bed and you become institutionalised in many ways and when you leave it’s quite difficult so going into SSAFA helped me overcome that.
“We’ve got a really good team in Perth and Kinross we’re very lucky actually. We’ve got a really good team of case workers and we support each other we can have a bit of a laugh with each other and you kind of put your circle back together again which you might have lost when you left the Army.
In speaking to Major Rowarth, he asked that I call him Steve – this is the name he says that those coming to SSAFA for help call him. Whilst respect is due for his experience and rank, when it comes to SSAFA, he is Steve and is there to help those in need.
Like many organisations, SSAFA had to adapt to COVID however they remained available and actively supporting people through working from home and running an Emergency Response Fund so that donations would go towards its continued operation.
Throughout the past year however, the number of people contacting SSAFA has dropped. This is not due to lack of people needing help. Major Rowarth said:
“We would in a normal year handle about 120 cases spread across the whole of Perth and Kinross looking for either financial or emotional support, and when the COVID lockdown first started in March that looking for help, just disappeared.
“We had nobody ringing helplines, we had nobody popping in for a chat cause because we couldn’t run the office. Over the year our numbers went down by about 20% and I think that’s reflected in the same way across the whole of the veteran’s charitable sector.
“The need for clients hasn’t gone away, it’s just that they’re not able to get out and about, seek help in the way that they would have been in the past the way for us is that these people have gone away.
“They’ve got nowhere else to turn and they’ll come to us and say, ‘Can you help, I’m about to be evicted’ and that’s when we normally step in and we would normally do that at a very early stage, and that’s not happening now.
“It’s a hidden statistic at the moment and we think it’s only going to get worse.
“We’re expecting a kind of flood of requests for help, probably from the start of May we think when things will start to ease, and people will be able to get out and about and then they’ll also get these eviction notices through the network then we’ll help out.
The level of help needed by the veterans contacting SSAFA ranges. It could be financial help such as needing new carpets or white goods or funds to help move to a new home or it may just be needing someone to talk to.
One of Steve’s existing clients is actually an officer he served with in 1977 when he first joined the army.
SSAFA allows for the comradery of serving together to continue and for veterans to have a like-minded group around them to support them in this new phase of life.
“It’s keeping that link going so it’s been important for me and actually I get as much from being a SSAFA caseworker as I give back to SSAFA and give back to clients so that’s been great.
“When you do help a family, you’re not looking for thanks, you’re not looking for a reward but when they’re very grateful for that – It can be quite emotional actually, and very, very rewarding.
Community support is key in supporting organisations such as SSAFA and any fundraising or volunteering for the organisation translates to real life results than can be seen.
“I can guarantee within my own charity that every penny you give goes to a client. If you said to me ‘what did you spend my pound on’, I could point to that client and say, ‘I gave your pound to that man there, and this is what he did with it’.
“If you know of somebody that served in the forces and they’re struggling, just pick up the phone give us a ring. You don’t have to say any more than ‘I think so and so is a veteran, and I think they’re in trouble, and this is their contact details’ we’ll carry on with that try and help as much as we can.
Volunteers for caseworkers with SSAFA are also much needed and anyone wishing to volunteer their time can contact SSAFA on 07929 592747 or by emailing email@example.com
For more information on SSAFA, visit: https://ssafa.org.uk/