Discussion in 'Charities and Welfare' started by Highflight, Sep 30, 2007.

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  1. Launched tomorrow is a new military charity called 'Help for Heroes'.

    Full details can be obtained in an article courtesy of The Sunday Times web at
    (sorry for the lack of a link, I am not that pc wise. No doubt a good ARRSER will do the honours).

    The main thrust of the charity is to target aid to those who have suffered from the current conflicts, firstly by helping Headley Court get a swimming pool, which they don't have and a gymnasium.

    Take the trouble to go to the charity site and the Times online article. It looks like a very good idea, especially for those people who want to 'target' their donations.
  2. editorial and ..............story:
    Saving the soldiers we neglect
    A new charity is going to the aid of soldiers injured, many grievously, in wars such as Iraq and Aghanistan who are slipping through the care net when they return to Britain, reports Ed CaesarEd Caesar
    PRIVATE Matthew Woollard, who celebrated his 19th birthday last week, deserves to feel like a hero. Five months ago he was on duty with the Royal Anglian Regiment in Afghanistan when he stepped on a landmine, losing his foot and much of his lower right leg and suffering shrapnel wounds to the rest of his body.

    Since then Woollard has endured a below-knee amputation, spent nine weeks in Selly Oak hospital, Birmingham, and a further three months at Headley Court in Surrey, the services’ specialist rehabilitation unit. Shrapnel is still coming out of his body.

    Headley Court is the first target of a new charity, Help for Heroes, to be launched tomorrow with the backing of The Sunday Times. The charity has been set up to raise extra funds for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to “directly support the wounded from the current conflicts” in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    Help for Heroes’ first goal is to raise between £5m and £8m for a new gym and swimming pool at Headley Court. Its patrons will be Jeremy Clarkson, the Sunday Times columnist, and his wife Francie. “I was pretty weak after I came out of Selly Oak,” said Woollard last week after a weights session in the existing gym at Headley Court. “I’d dropped to 8½ stone. Now I’m feeling much better. I work out maybe three or four hours a day.

    Help For Heroes

    Related Links
    A land fit for heroes
    “I’ve put on loads of weight [he is now 12½ stone] and I’ve been able to see welfare officers and all of that while I’ve been here. It’s a good place.”

    Woollard is not the only soldier to think Headley Court is a good place. The rehabilitation centre, which deals with the injured from all three services, has an excellent reputation in the armed forces.

    The property is housed in a Jacobean mansion in the Surrey countryside, once owned by a governor of the Bank of England. The facilities at Headley Court, according to Wing Commander Steve Beaumont, its commanding officer, help patients to be “rehabilitated in a way that encourages team spirit and a military way of thinking”.

    It has gyms, a hydrotherapy pool, outdoor pitches where the patients can play sports and wards divided into “ambulant” and “high-dependency” patients. It has 66 beds and sees 4,000 outpatients a year.

    There is a world-class prosthetics department, where ex-aircraft engineers adapt and modify artificial limbs for ampu-tees. The most advanced computerised arms and legs - which cost £10,000 each - can be moved wirelessly by a Bluetooth controller in the patient’s pocket.

    Satisfied as most of the patients are, the facilities are not perfect. There is, for instance, no swimming pool - the patients take a half-hour bus ride to a public pool in Leatherhead - which means those who cannot do load-bearing movements have limited access to cardio-vascular exercise.

    “Good old army,” said Bryn Parry, founder of Help for Heroes, to which readers are invited to donate using the internet link or coupon below. “They always say, ‘We’ll make do’. I say, making do isn’t good enough. Obviously the MoD can’t blow its budget on this - it has other more urgent priorities. Where we come in is that we can help to raise the funds so our soldiers get really excellent facilities.”

    The charity is the brainchild of Parry, 51, a cartoonist and former member of the Royal Green Jackets, and Sarah-Jane Shirreff, wife of General Sir Richard Shirreff, former commander of British forces in Basra.

    Through its website it will also allow the public to “help a hero” in any way they see fit - perhaps by offering tickets to football matches or funding a meal out. Already this aspect of the appeal has been kickstarted by retailers - Dixons has donated 1,000 MP3 players and PC World has provided a number of combined television-computers.

    The Clarksons became involved in the cause of Britain’s war wounded last year when they met Lance Bombardier Ben Parkinson at Selly Oak hospital - where a military-managed ward, albeit with beds for only 14 patients, gives primary care to injured service personnel returning from combat zones. When a landmine exploded under Parkinson’s Land Rover in Helmand province, Afghanistan, he lost both legs, injured his spine, pelvis, skull and spleen, and suffered brain damage.

    Parkinson’s case highlighted the poor treatment often accorded to veterans by the authorities. He was awarded just £152,150 from the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme - a sum intended to cover medical costs for the rest of his life.

    A review of compensation, partly prompted by outrage at Parkinson’s treatment, is under way, although the MoD would not confirm last week whether its changes would be retrospective to include Parkinson.

    According to official figures, 805 service personnel had been wounded in Afghanistan or Iraq by the end of August, of whom 282 were categorised as seriously or very seriously injured.

    “My impression was that the guys were getting good initial care,” said Francie Clarkson of the couple’s first visit to Selly Oak hospital. “But it was when they needed care beyond that where we thought they weren’t top of anyone’s list of priorities.

    “If, for instance, someone needed more treatment from the NHS, they didn’t go top of the list - they just waited in line with everyone else. Also, the families weren’t looked after. Ben Parkinson’s mother, Diane, who was at his bedside every day, had to stay in a B&B. There were no facilities for the families to be put up. How could that be?”

    Jeremy Clarkson wrote about what he found at Selly Oak in a column last year in which he called on Tony Blair to find the money for military-only wards and more accommodation for families. Clarkson found himself in tune with a large section of the British media and the Royal British Legion’s high-profile “Hon-our the Covenant” campaign.

    The legion has made significant progress by reminding the government and the country of the military covenant, the understanding by which soldiers, in return for risking their lives, are promised appropriate service and respect at home by the government and the country.

    “It’s important to realise that these people, our troops, have been to hell and we need to make their passage back as smooth as possible,” said Clarkson. “I’ve got involved with Help for Heroes because our soldiers do something extraordinary and we should give them something extraordinary in return.

    “It doesn’t matter to them what their political masters tell them to do - they just do it. When every successful returning sports team gets a parade, why do our troops get nothing?”

    Since the pressure began to mount last year, there have been some advances in care for injured soldiers. Selly Oak is cleaner and will soon have better facilities for families.

    Near Headley Court, the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA) provides accommodation for 12 visiting relatives, despite having first to overcome planning objections from local residents.

    Parry, whose son has just joined the army, sees Help for Heroes as a charity “with no political edge”.

    After the Headley Court appeal, he says it will move on to other causes to ease the plight of the wounded and other service personnel and their families.

    “At the moment people say, ‘I don’t approve of the war but I want to help’,” he said. “We can either give direct, to a place like Headley Court, or we can give to a service charity.

    “Once we’ve raised money for the swimming pool and gym, I hope we can go on and tackle other problems. I want us to become like a fire extinguisher, putting out fires where they emerge.”

    There are many fires to extinguish. Research by the Army Benevolent Fund has shown that generosity to service charities has waned. During the Falklands war, the South Atlantic Appeal for service charities raised £11.5m. Special appeals in the Gulf war of 1990-1, meanwhile, raised £3.5m. So far, appeals by service charities for the Iraq war have raised less than £500,000.

    The money is needed more than ever. Not only are there more physical casualties coming home, but the number of troops with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other psychiatric problems has risen steeply. Many slip through the net.

    When Lance Corporal Justin Smith was medically discharged from the Coldstream Guards last August suffering from PTSD, he felt abandoned. On his second tour of Iraq, Smith saw his best friend, Ian “Molly” Malone, killed in front of him and has since suffered nightmares and flashbacks.

    On discharge from the army, he was faced with an unsettled housing situation - the expensive temporary house for which he paid £177 a week was so mouldy and damp-ridden that it was barely habitable - and inadequate medical care.

    “I see someone from the NHS about every two months,” said Smith, who has relied partly on more effective help from the legion. “I haven’t had therapy for over a year. I’m still working as a labourer, but it’s been a struggle.

    “I’m short-tempered with my kids and my relationship with my wife has suffered. I sleep on the settee. Sometimes I’ll get three hours’ sleep. On a good night I’ll get five.”

    After Smith harangued Tony Blair on the Westcountry Live programme on ITV in February this year, he was moved into more suitable accommodation. But he still feels, like many PTSD sufferers, that he has been “stuck on the scrap heap”.

    “Nothing’s changed,” said Smith. “Soldiers are still getting shafted.”

    The case of Corporal Tom Eckersley, who served in the Royal Military police in Northern Ireland and Bosnia, has taken longer to surface. Eckersley left the army in 1997 after he had worked in Bosnia, finding mass graves and numbering the dead. His duties caused him profound psychological distress and he was soon experiencing flashbacks and nightmares. On returning to his home in Manchester, his life crumbled.

    “It was harrowing,” said Eckersley, 39, now a British Legion welfare officer. “There were babies and OAPs in [the graves]. The smell - I can still smell it. It hit you right in the back of the throat. Yet all the time I was doing that work, no one said to me, ‘Are you all right?’

    “I started to have nightmares about being chased by dead babies and dead OAPs.

    “When I was 33, I told a friend I couldn’t sleep and he gave me cannabis to smoke. I’d grown up in Wythenshawe, on one of the roughest council estates in the country where there’s a dealer on every street, but I tried drugs for the first time when I was 33. Cannabis helped me sleep, so I started smoking and drinking heavily. I slept rough. I tried to commit suicide twice.

    “Luckily for me the legion found me. They saved my life. No one in the army ever told me that if I encountered problems later in civilian life, I could talk to people like Combat Stress. I feel very bitter about it. Gordon Brown says he’s so proud of his troops. Well, he needs to look after them.”

    Dr Walter Busuttil, medical director of Combat Stress - which is part-funded by the MoD - believes the NHS does not know how to deal with military trauma. But with the demise of psychiatric centres for the forces, the NHS is the only option.

    “I have heard cases of ex-servicemen who have been put in NHS group therapy sessions,” said Busuttil. “When they have tried to talk about their experiences in Afghanistan or Iraq, they have been told, ‘You can’t talk about those things. You’ll traumatise the other patients’.”

    Cash raised by Help for Heroes may well be directed to PTSD-related causes in future.

    Money, though, will not cure everything. A frequent complaint against the services is that they are capable of gross insensitivity. Lianne Seymour - whose husband Ian, an operator mechanic with 3 Commando brigade, was killed in a helicopter crash on the first day of the Iraq war - knows this better than most.

    Lianne, an accountant, was 27 when she became a widow with a three-year-old child. Her first experiences with the MoD after her husband’s crash would set a pattern that has continued to this day. “I received a letter from the army which said that because my husband had died 10 days before pay day, he had been overpaid in error for 10 days’ work,” she said.

    “They said I would have to repay that money. I was shocked but I didn’t initially do anything about it. But I told a friend who got in touch with her MP - the matter was raised in parliament and the demand was very quickly retracted.”

    Since then, Lianne’s clashes with the authorities have continued. She was told to leave her accommodation within six months; she discovered after her husband’s funeral that part of his remains had been retained by the MoD; inquiries by the American and British authorities into the crash have taken four years and until they are finished no inquest can begin.

    “I’ve seen three secretaries of state for defence now,” she said. “They have all told me to write a letter to someone else.

    “I will always remember when Ian passed out from his training. A senior officer gave this fine speech about how we were all in this big family and how everyone is brothers in arms. And I think we all believed it . . . But that’s just not the case. So many people are abandoned.”

    How to donate

    The easiest way to make a donation is to visit and click on the Donations button. This is a secure way of donating and allows H4H to claim Gift Aid, which adds 28% to the value.

    By cheque. Cheques should be made payable to Help for Heroes and sent to Help for Heroes, Unit 6, Aspire Business Centre, Ordnance Road, Tidworth, Hants SP9 7QD
  3. great idea but its a sad state of afairs when the government arent footing the bill. i was based at headley court in the early 1990s and they do a much needed job.
  4. Thanks poppy for the full story. (easy when you know how).

    I agree with your comment, that a charity has to be set up to provide such basic rehabilitation needs as a swimming pool and a decent gym. Proof of what has been said about the poor support and care of our wounded military.
  5. Spanish_Dave

    Spanish_Dave LE Good Egg (charities)

    I wonder if anyone fancies a week in my place in Spain

    The least I can do

    I have tried to e mail on the website my offer but it doesent seem to have gone, if anybody has links to them please let them know
  6. Maybe the site is not operating until tomorrow?. I am sure some wounded serviceman and family would love a break in your lovely apartment. It is very generous of you to offer.
  7. paper said the charity is being launched tomorrow - maybe try again with your generous offer Dave - I am sure it will be much appreciated
  8. I have tried to register and the website is not working, so it may be tomorrow. Give it another try.
  9. I have just looked at the website - very many congratulations to the people who set this up - it is excellent and the government should hang their heads in shame that it needs to exist when they should have done it
  10. oldbaldy

    oldbaldy LE Moderator Good Egg (charities)
    1. Battlefield Tours

  11. I agree with everyone that this is a fantastic idea and one that will be welcome throughout the ranks.

    However, Points to Note: It has yet to be registered with the Charities Commission and may take some time to get through the process. Until that time I would urge a small amount of caution.

    Of course, this does not detract from the fantastic work they will no doubt do over the coming months and years.

  12. oldbaldy

    oldbaldy LE Moderator Good Egg (charities)
    1. Battlefield Tours

    It is now my friend:
  13. Thanks OldB, I stand fully corrected.

    I for one add my full support to Help for this worthwhile charity.

  14. Spanish_Dave

    Spanish_Dave LE Good Egg (charities)

    I have spoken to them and they have accepted my offer
  15. Well done sir. A gentleman and a scholar.