As one of only two Tri-service charities working with commissioned officers, we aim to support former officers and reservists, their families and dependants when needed. Rose has worked for the OABF as a Grants and Welfare Manager for over six years and shares an insight into her varied and rewarding role.
My role as a Grants and Welfare Manager is varied and rewarding, and no two days are the same. We need to be flexible and think on our feet as no two people and no two situations are alike. One day we may be helping somebody served with an eviction notice. Then, the next day, advising an officer’s family on residential care funding and liaising with their local authority to progress a care funding application.
Since August 2020, we no longer provide financial assistance to new applicants due to changes in the OABF’s funding. Despite this policy change, our work continues as we advise and support people with their enquiries and requests for help. We help facilitate applications to other military charities and provide signposting information and guidance where needed.
Who seeks help?
There is a common misconception that given the status of their former role, officers do not need advice or financial guidance. It is easy to overlook the needs of retired officers, yet they are as vulnerable to changes in physical and mental health and personal circumstances as the rest of us. Nor are officers and their families immune to life’s setbacks. Last year we supported 645 people through life-changing situations: redundancy, chronic illness, financial hardship and relationship breakdown.
We aim to provide a personalised approach when people approach us. Every case will have a dedicated Grants and Welfare Manager as a single and continuous point of contact. People do not need to tell ‘their story’ to different people, even within the same organisation, to get help. I find this is such an important part of our work and something that sets us apart from other organisations.
Our feedback from those we support tells us that people are reluctant to seek help and often do not know where to access support. We understand that people approach us at a difficult time in their lives and appreciate that upholding a professional and confidential service is crucial to helping them move forward.
Our Honorary Representatives
We are fortunate to have a strong network of volunteers working around the country and overseas to support our work. Honorary Representatives (Hon Reps) are the OABF’s trained volunteers who meet people when they wish to make a funding application.
Ordinarily, they work face to face, undertaking home visits but this is temporarily on hold because of Covid-19, and visits have been replaced with informal interviews over the telephone. They are often the friendly voice able to offer reassurance in a person’s time of need.
We find that widows/widowers frequently approach us for guidance to access support services. They may be struggling to come to terms with the death of a partner and experiencing feelings of loneliness and isolation. We have learnt that contact with the Hon Reps and their Grants and Welfare Manager can provide welcome reassurance and a source of comfort and advice.
The wider world
A challenging part of my role is keeping up to date with our national welfare provision and guidelines. It is an area that sees a significant number of policy changes, and it is essential for us to keep on top of these to ensure we provide the best possible information.
Through my previous roles, I built an extensive network and insight into the range and value of civilian and military benevolent funds and charities. I have also worked with social workers and health professionals within local authorities, and this helps me to signpost or access statutory help on behalf of an individual.
As a team, we have a wealth of knowledge and many years’ worth of experience offering information, support, and guidance. Each team member has expertise across the differing areas of welfare and the charity sector that we can call upon when needed to provide holistic support.
We explore avenues for additional help and secure funding for individuals from other charities where possible and collaborate widely across the military and civilian charity sectors with our Hon Reps and external caseworkers. Our relationships with other charities are essential in helping us to deliver a more rounded and holistic package of support.
It is gratifying and rewarding to work with individuals to help solve their problems. Often people have never needed to call for extra support, yet they contact us when their life is under considerable strain through no fault of their own.
We pride ourselves on trying to offer a service that is personal and tailored to their needs. It is a hugely rewarding role.