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New charity is launched to help ex-servicemen and women in Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 08:45 25 March 2014 | UPDATED: 08:45 25 March 2014

The Royal Norfolk Show Ball committee(l to r) Lord Dannatt, Brig. Max Marriner, Col. Jamie Athill, Fee Sharples, Sarah Softley, Lt. Col. John Sharples and Gp Capt Stewart Blackburn.
Photo by Simon Finlay.

The Royal Norfolk Show Ball committee(l to r) Lord Dannatt, Brig. Max Marriner, Col. Jamie Athill, Fee Sharples, Sarah Softley, Lt. Col. John Sharples and Gp Capt Stewart Blackburn. Photo by Simon Finlay.

A former head of the British Army claims some ex-servicemen and women are still in desperate need because they do not know how to access help.

General the Lord Richard Dannatt, who lives near Norwich, said there was a wealth of military charities, such as Help For Heroes, doing good work in Norfolk.

But he said there were gaps and overlaps between charities which led to a confusing situation where veterans – of whom there are an estimated 10,000 in Norfolk – did not know which way to turn.

In a bid to tackle the problem, he is helping to launch a pioneering scheme to decipher the busy landscape of charities.

Veterans Norfolk will offer a single phone number and website and invite veterans of the army, navy and RAF to call them to be put in touch with the right charity to help them.

Lord Dannatt, who is president of the umbrella charity, said it is the first initiative of its type in England and is desperately needed.

“Experience shows us that people often try to solve problems for themselves as they don’t realise there’s help out there for them,” he explained.

“We want to show them there’s a lot of help and as soon as they put their hands up we will try to signpost them to that.

“It’s when people try to solve problems themselves – that’s when they can turn to drink, turn violent, maybe have family problems and can get on the wrong side of the law.

“Suicide is sadly seen as a way out – we want to avoid all that.

“We want to put people in touch as early as possible. It has to be the right thing to do.”

Veterans Norfolk aims to create a single point of contact instead of having “15 separate conversations” with charities.

It is aiming to launch a full service next year once funding has been achieved.

Lord Dannatt stressed running costs would be minimal, and was determined it would not become “another drain”.

In time he hoped Veterans Norfolk would have an office in Norwich as well as at the police headquarters at Wymondham.

“We want to put a system in place where everyone who has military service and has fallen on the wrong side of the criminal justice system gets the support they need in custody or in prison, and find out what caused them to fall on the wrong side of the law,” he said. “It could well be related to their former military service.”

To raise the profile of the charity, the group is hosting the show ball at Norfolk Showground on June 20 – aiming to raise £50,000.

Targetfollow Group will be headline sponsors of the ball, which will have a theme of 1914-2014.

It will be held in the marquees adjoining the President’s Pavilion at the showground, starting with a drinks reception at 7pm.

Guests will enjoy a taste of military music when the band of 3rd Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment will be Beating Retreat at 7.15pm and they will also play through dinner.

There will be an Ipad auction, table raffle and tombola with dancing to a band and disco until 1am.

Lord Dannatt said Veterans 
Norfolk was a “work in progress”, and the first of its kind in England – with its closest match being 
Veterans Scotland, and the potential for “Veterans Suffolk and 
Veterans Essex” if it is a success in Norfolk.

“We can have national policies which come out of London, but we don’t live at national policy level,” added Lord Dannatt.

“We live in Norfolk, so it’s all about delivery on the ground and meeting their needs where they’re from.”

Have you sought help from a military charity? Email newsdesk@archant.co.uk

See www.veteransnorfolk.org.uk

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