George Orwell famously wrote that “To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.” So it is in Herefordshire, because of the incredible range of volunteering and community support organisations that quietly go about their business across the county.
Last Friday I visited one of them, the Herefordshire Veteran Support Centre on West Street in the city, and had a chance to talk to the Centre manager Sean and some of the trustees.
It has been estimated that a quarter of Herefordshire residents have some link to the armed forces, yet many veterans find it difficult to get support when they need it.
The Centre was developed in order to provide a friendly ‘One Stop Support Shop’, able to bring together access to advice and services for former military personnel and their families and carers.
It originally benefited from Veteran Pilot Hub funding from the Armed Forces Covenant Trust Fund, following a successful bid by Herefordshire Council, and got off to a great start, finding a venue, undertaking renovations, and establishing a support team.
Just as the official opening was due to take place, however, the pandemic forced the Centre to close. But since reopening it has made great progress.
During the pandemic itself, it operated a veteran-to-veteran volunteering scheme which provided food parcels and shopping to vulnerable people. Since last November, more than 60 Veterans have been supported, with three veterans visiting the Centre on average every week.
It has helped people suffering from both digital and food poverty, providing essentials like food vouchers and mobile phones, and it hosts the Department of Work and Pensions' Veterans Team every month, which provides help to veterans facing difficulties with their pensions or PiP payments.
Like so many local organisations, the Centre relies on a handful of hardworking volunteers. It has been supported by a wider network of kind and committed individuals and businesses, and is regularly fundraising, most recently through an online auction.
Over the next year, it is seeking to recruit and train a team of new volunteers, build its own sustainability and raise its profile further so as to help more veterans. Looking ahead, the Centre team want to expand their outreach to market towns in the county.
The Herefordshire Veteran Support Centre is a hidden gem, with huge potential to help some of our finest citizens, and I am proud to support them. Their website is https://herefordshire-vsc.org/.
First published in the Hereford Times, 10 Feb 2022