SSAFA, the Armed Forces Charity

SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity exists to relieve the need, suffering and distress amongst the Armed Forces, veterans and their families in order to support their independence and dignity. We understand the unique demands of service life, whether its on UK soil or overseas. Support is available for people at any stage of their military career- from the youngest recruit to the oldest veteran – no one’s service is ever forgotten.

In recognition of their service to the nation, SSAFA the Armed Forces charity, works to ensure that the needs of our Armed Forces, veterans and their families are met in an appropriate and timely way.

We have 90 branches in the UK.
59 Service committees located in many Army, Navy and RAF stations.

In 2019:

85,001 people in the Armed Forces community received our support.

5,201 volunteers helped us deliver vital support all over the world, from visiting a veteran in their own home to meeting weekly with a service leaver who has through our mentoring service.

41,365 visits and cases were completed by our trained volunteers

We began our work in 1885 and in 2019 our teams of volunteers and employees helped more than 85,000 people – from Second World War veterans to those involved in more recent conflicts and their families. 

We have many specialist services to ensure we can be there including:

  • Family support groups for injured and bereaved
  • Mentoring for service leavers
  • Domestic Refuge and Housing
  • Support for Families with Additional Needs and Disabilities
  • Adoption Agency

The Syncona Foundation’s incredible generosity and support plays a significant role in our core work. The grant is used towards SSAFA’s casework service, at the heart of our charitable activity. Casework is critical to ensure we reach those whom need our support, when they need it at a local level and, of equal importance, with a personal face to face contact. It is a tailored, personalised welfare advice and support service available to serving personnel, reserves, veterans and their families.

Every person that requires SSAFA helps is an individual, which means that the assistance we provide is needs based and adapted entirely to the beneficiary. A key to all of this is ensuring our 5,200 volunteers are trained and this is a core piece of our work. All too often a visit from a trained caseworker to a person whom has asked for our help in a certain area can uncover many other problems, which we can then help to resolve sooner. Hence the uniqueness and importance of our face to face visits.

Marc’s story.

“Within 24 hours we’d gone from expecting our second child, to Victoria needing an operation for cancer.”

Marc, a Sergeant in the Army and his wife Victoria were expecting their second child together, Marc’s third. It was a tough pregnancy and Victoria was in a lot of pain, but doctors said her symptoms were perfectly normal. It wasn’t until their 12-week scan that it was revealed nothing was ‘normal’.

“At the scan I noticed that the midwife was looking shocked. She turned to me and Victoria and said ‘I am really sorry but there is no baby there’”

The couple were sent for further tests which revealed Victoria had a cancerous growth – a molar pregnancy. She was sent for an operation and then referred to Charing Cross for specialist care. The couple were referred to SSAFA. “Alec, the case worker that came to see me, came at that time everything was still very raw. I had money worries and worried about being able to look after Victoria. When Alec came, I was probably at the lowest point in Victoria’s treatment. He had the most empathetic and nice approach and straight away I was put at ease."

The SSAFA case worker was able to listen and offer practical help and support. He was able to secure £2,400 worth of childcare costs for their 2-year old daughter Kaitlin, while they travelled back and forth from Bovington Camp in Dorset to London for Victoria to have chemotherapy. A huge strain on the family finances.

“I was quite proud. I would probably have struggled rather than seek help, but that decision was taken out of my hands and that was the best thing really because I was worried about loss of income and also alongside that a huge, huge difference in our outgoings. Instead of just the usual day to day costs we had to drive to hospital in London, pay £50 a day for parking there – at home we always had to have the heating on because of the chemotherapy so it was like living in a sauna. The costs were just huge in every way.”

Victoria was stoic throughout her treatment, but her conditioned worsened in January and she became bedridden. The chemotherapy course she was on was poisoning her.

“Because of the type of cancer being vascular, so it could burst at any point, Victoria wasn’t allowed to hold Kaitlin, so Kaitlin had already gone from having a really loving mummy, to a mummy that had to be careful and distant. When Kaitlin was ill Victoria wasn’t allowed to be with her. One of the hardest things I saw was Kaitlin having stomach bug and being inconsolable and me and Victoria not being able to comfort her. Victoria couldn’t be around anyone with a bug, and if I caught that bug as well then that care for Victoria stopped. And Victoria was more heartbroken about that than anything to do with the cancer. So SSAFA meant we could keep normality in Kaitlin’s life, and even when there was bad stuff going on, we knew she was still having a good time in nursery.”

Doctors put Victoria on a different course of chemotherapy and Victoria’s condition improved. In May 2019 she was told the cancer had been treated.

“I never thought, especially at 36 and Victoria at 31, that we would need to ask for help. Especially for cancer. But without SSAFA, and without the support we received I don’t think we’d be where we are now. I know Victoria would have received her treatment, but mentally the way everything was, it would have been so much harder. I’d just like to thank SSAFA from the bottom of our hearts. It made life so much easier.”

Always there for our Armed Forces Family

www.ssafa.org.uk