Over 2,000 veterans in Scotland contacted Legion Scotland last year looking for a befriender to help them combat loneliness and isolation.
Legion Scotland, (Royal British Legion Scotland) is the largest ex-services membership charity in Scotland and due to this demand the charity is currently looking to attract more Ayrshire people to provide friendship to ex-servicemen and women, young and old.
In 2015, 2,200 requests for befriender support were made either from a veteran directly or a family member. Research throughout the years has shown that veterans of all ages and backgrounds can encounter a range of challenges upon leaving the Armed Forces including isolation, unemployment and housing issues.
The Ayrshire Befriender Group, which covers the full region, enriches the lives of the ex-community and volunteers alike.
Ayrshire Wellbeing Co-ordinator and Irvine branch Vice Chairman William McMaster has witnessed the positive impact the service has on veterans.
He said: “The Ayrshire Befriender Group makes a massive difference to the general wellbeing of the veterans. Some members of the ex-service community have had no interaction for months and it’s heartbreaking. Everybody needs to talk. I had to struggle on my own to get better while I battled depression and homelessness so I hate the idea of someone having to go through a similar situation.
“I’ve received letters, emails and numerous phone calls from veterans thanking us for the work that we’ve done because we’ve changed their lives completely.”
Local Legion Scotland befrienders receive full training and can give as little as two hours a week of their time visiting a veteran, many of whom have no one else to talk to. They can also provide advice and signpost them to vital support services run by Legion Scotland and other military charities which can have a long lasting positive change on their life.
Stephen Baird, Head of Wellbeing, Legion Scotland said: “The amount of people contacting us last year is a stark reminder that veterans across Scotland are in need of support. Our befriending service is simple but highly effective. We know that some veterans can feel isolated and lonely after leaving the military and having someone to talk to, share a laugh with and confide in can make a huge difference to people’s lives.”
To find out more about Legion Scotland’s befriending service including information on how to volunteer contact Stephen Baird on 0131 550 1560 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Currently, Legion Scotland represents around 85% of people at the disablement pensions tribunals each year.