Category Archive:VCP News

King’s Award for Voluntary Service

King's Award for Voluntary Service

The Veterans Contact Point is very proud to announce that we have received The King’s Award for Voluntary Service.

All VCP staff are unpaid volunteers and veterans of the armed forces themselves.  The King’s Award for Voluntary Service has equivalent status to an MBE for charitable organisations and its award to the VCP recognises the unstinting commitment of time, effort and dedication by the staff to help fellow veterans in need.

The Board of Trustees and our volunteers are delighted to have received the award.

A tribute to Tam Webster

The Veterans Contact Point is sad to announce the death of our good friend and colleague Tam Webster.

Tam served in the Coldstream Guards and saw active service in the Gulf War of 1991.  He became a volunteer peer support worker at the VCP and was instrumental in running the Brew and Banter sessions at the Nuneaton, Atherstone and Dordon hubs.  His dedication to helping fellow veterans in need was exemplary.

Tam was a highly valued and respected member of the VCP team and he will be greatly missed by all who knew him.  We extend our deepest sympathies to Tam’s family and friends.

Stand Easy, Tam.

Nulli Secundus

Armed Forces Day 2023, Warwick.

The Veterans Contact Point will be at the Armed Forces Day event at St Nicholas’ Park Warwick on 24th July 2023.  The event is organised by Warwick District Council.

Veterans Contact Point – South Warwickshire

The Veterans Contact Point – South Warwickshire held its first Armed Forces Awareness Event at the Warwick Arms Hotel in Warwick  on Thursday, 2nd March 2023.  This event also celebrated the official opening of the Southern Hub which complements the existing Northern Hub in Nuneaton.  Funding for this development came from a grant made by The Veterans Foundation.

Warwickshire’s Lord Lieutenant Tim Cox and High Sherriff David Kelham joined other VIP’s, Veterans and representatives from Military Charities, NHS, Local Authorities and Community Organisations from across Warwickshire in celebrating this event and in learning more about the great work being done by The Veterans Contact Point and the local Armed Forces Covenant Partnership.

 VCP President – Prof Damian Griffin OBE

 

            Jeff Worthington & Jason Hester Peer Support

Press Release by Warwick District Council                

New Veterans Contact Point – South Warwickshire Hub launched

Local Veterans now have a new, easy-access location for help and support in the centre of Warwick at Pageant House, provided by Warwick District Council. This new opportunity for veterans is provided by The Veterans Contact Point (VCP). The (VCP) South Warwickshire Hub was launched at an event held at The Warwick Arms Hotel on Thursday, 2nd March 2023 which was attended by Warwickshire Lord Lieutenant, Warwickshire Police Crimes Commissioner, Members and staff from Warwick District Council, Stratford-on-Avon District Council, Armed Forces Personnel both Serving & Veterans, Military Charities, NHS/Hospitals and representatives from across the local Community

 

It was also supported with key presentations and delegates from Warwickshire County Council – Chair of the Local Armed Forces Covenant Partnership, Ministry of Defence/Army HQ West Midlands, Warwickshire Police, Coventry Warwickshire Partnership NHS Trust Veteran Mental Health and Wellbeing Service (OP Courage), Solider, Sailor, Airman and Families Association (SSAFA) and The President and Veterans from the Veterans Contact Point.

Warwick District Councillor George Illingworth, Armed Forces Covenant Champion, said:

 

Cllr George Illingworth – Warwick District Council

 

 

Cllr Wallace Redford – Warwickshire County Council & CSW Armed Forces Covenant Lead

 

                                                                         
Peter Knight – SSAFA Warwickshire & Coventry Branch

 

“I’m delighted to be part of this project which provides much-needed help and support for our local Veterans. Volunteers who have served themselves will be on hand to help or to signpost to other organisations, it’s a worthwhile charitable service and one which I am proud to support.”

Stratford–on-Avon District Councillor Christopher Kettle, Portfolio Holder for Legal and Community Safety, said:

“With the current conflict in Ukraine, Stratford District Council are only too aware of the valuable contribution of our Armed Forces, their families and residents who presently and previously have served the nation. The new Veterans Contact Point will provide valuable resources and is an important component of the debt we all owe to those in the armed forces community”.

 

Len Hardy BEM – Executive Trustee VCP & Event Host

Len Hardy BEM, Executive Trustee & Veterans Champion VCP, said:

“The Veterans Contact Point (VCP) has been working with Warwick & Stratford on Avon District Council’s to develop this fantastic opportunity to provide a local hub in South Warwickshire. We will, in partnership with others, support and deliver upon the UK’s Community’s Armed Forces Covenant pledge made to its Armed Forces Community and their Families, present and past.

                                                                Shelia Stephenson  HQ Army W/Mids

 

                           Dr’s Dan Barnard & Esther Riggs supported by John Walker MBE – OP COURAGE

“We are extremely pleased to have this operating base in Warwick which will be developed to become a multi-agency intervention hub, providing and developing local support and awareness for Veterans and their families living in South Warwickshire.”

The Veterans Contact Point’s South Warwickshire Hub in Warwick is located at Pageant House in the town and is open Monday to Friday from 10am to 4pm; Veterans and their families from the UK Armed Forces can go for help and advice, welfare support, housing, finance benefits & debt referrals, health & wellbeing, work, volunteering, and community projects.

Inspector Victoria Duffield-Smith Warwickshire Police Armed Forces Champion

PC Scotty Caswell – Warwickshire Police Armed Forces Champion

 

Picture Caption left to right:  Sheila Stephenson (Army West Midlands), Councillor Wallace Redford (WCC and Chair of Coventry, Solihull and Warwickshire Armed Forces Covenant Partnership, Dr Esther Riggs (Courage), Damian Griffin (President Veteran’s Contact Point), Councillor George Illingworth (WDC), Dr Dan Barnard (Courage), Inspector Victoria Duffield -Smith (Warwickshire Police), Bernadette Allen (WDC Armed Forces Lead).  Police Constable Scott Caswell (Warwickshire Police), Councillor Parminder Singh Birdi (Mayor of Warwick), Len Hardy BEM, Executive Trustee & Veterans Champion VCP (Chair Veterans Contact Point)

 

For further information on the Veterans Contact Point, visit Pageant House, Jury Street, Warwick, CV34 4ES or relating to the services they provide, email contactus@veteranscontactpoint.co.uk, telephone: 02476 343793 or visit www.veteranscontactpoint.org.uk.

 

Veterans Contact Point – Warwick Hub Now Open

With the support of grant funding made available through Veterans Foundation   https://www.veteransfoundation.org.uk working with Warwick District Council have now completed all paperwork and agreements to officially announce the opening of The Veterans Contact Point – Warwick located at Pageant House, 2 Jury Street, Warwick CV34 4ES

The first ever session of our popular Brew & Banter pop in’s will be available for Veterans on Fridays between 10:00 -14:00 starting on Friday, 25th November 2022. This informal get together enables veterans to meet other veterans over a free brew/wet and exchange banter. Brew & Banter has proven very popular across our other Hubs in Dordon (Tuesday’s), Nuneaton (Wednesday’s) and Atherstone (Thursday’s) with over 30 veterans attending these free drop ins’.

  Op Free Speech

Provided with two rooms on the first floor in Pageant House which is also now the new home of the Fusiliers Museum Warwick (Opening in early December 2022) we quickly established am office and a group work/meeting room:

All of our existing interventions which include, Partnership Working, Peer Support (Veteran to Veteran), Op Free Speech (None-clinical Support) to Veterans from Gulf/Iraq/Afghanistan Wars/Conflicts, Safe Gateway to access support, Brew & Banter, Social Meetings, Befriending, and Welfare support will also take place at the Warwick Hub.

Our existing delivery partners, Op Courage (NHS) Mental Health Teams (TILS/HIS/CTS), Veterans UK, SSAFA Warwickshire & Coventry and others have pledged their support and will deliver interventions from Warwick.

Initially we will staff the Warwick Hub with our existing team of Volunteers from the North of Warwickshire, it is hoped as we gain traction in Warwick/Southern Warwickshire we will increase the numbers of veterans and other volunteers who want to support the work the Veterans Contact Point provides.  We will ensure appropriate training and support for all who volunteer for this established charity. If you’re interested and want to learn more ring 02476 343793 or email: contactus@veteranscontactpoint.co.uk.

 

 

VCP Warwick Offices – Opening Soon

The Veterans Contact Point in Partnership with Warwick District Council will be establishing a Veterans Support Hub in Pageant House Warwick

Pageant House High Street Warwick

Refurbishment work modernising the internal of the building is almost complete and the first floor of Pageant House will eventually accommodate the Veterans Contact Point and the Warwickshire Fusiliers Museum. Already established on the ground floor are the Warwickshire Yeomanry Museum, the Wedding Ceremony Room and Warwick Town Council.

The Veterans Contact Point has worked tirelessly to establish a base in Southern Warwickshire to complement its existing successful Head Quarters based in Nuneaton North Warwickshire. Working with Warwick District Council, The Coventry, Solihull and Warwickshire Armed Forces Covenant Partnership and funding from The Veterans Foundation these efforts have resulted in a suite of two rooms being made available to the Warwickshire Charity to establish an operation base in the South.

Capital Funders Veterans Foundation support the Veterans Contact Point in Warwick

Final plans have been made and equipment ordered to allow the Veterans Contact Point to start to deliver support and partnership interventions to Armed Forces Veterans and their families living in South Warwickshire. The strength behind the intervention’s that are delivered by this award-winning Military Charity is its Peer Support which have proven highly effective in supporting many hundreds of veterans to date and in ensuring their continued engagement in service delivery and interventions from the Armed Forces Covenant Partnership.

The date set for “doors open” and operational face to face interventions is Monday 7th November the week before the UK remembers the lives lost, sacrifices and service of its Armed Forces in battles and conflicts past. The suite of offices will be dedicated to our late President Mr David JO Owen MBE DL in memory of his endless commitment to The Veterans Contact Point who he was instrumental in establishing back in 2009.  David was also the President of SSAFA Warwickshire & Coventry Branch, dedicating his own life since leaving the Military to ensure that his fellow Veterans and their Families should not struggle to find support. He also supported many other great charities and organisations across Warwickshire.

If you are a veteran or a partner of a veteran or an organisation or individual who knows of a veteran or their family who are struggling, help can be accessed through any one of our hubs across Warwickshire, one telephone number: 02476343793 and one email address: contactus@veteranscontactpoint.co.uk

If you are a veteran and want to be involved in supporting the work we do, or even just to rock up for a brew and a chat, same number and email or when we are open Monday 7th November 2022, pop in the door is open and the brew/wets will be on. We look forward to welcoming you.

 

Op Free Speech – Support Available Now to UK Veterans who have served in Iraq & Afghanistan

“Op Free Speech – Support to UK Veterans who have served in the Gulf Wars, Iraq or Afghanistan and need help or someone to talk too”

The Veterans Contact Point (VCP) is proud to announce its successful application for funding to support the needs of those servicemen and women who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan and who may be struggling with the impacts of these wars. The project is funded for 12 months by the Office of Veterans Affairs and administered through the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust and is available to access now.

The VCP worked very closely with our NHS colleagues from Op Courage in Warwickshire, Coventry, Solihull and the surrounding Midlands areas to identify the need to provide non-clinical supportive interventions to veterans engaged in service or exiting out of clinical interventions with them. This interest also included extending this support to other organisations and charities who are also working with these veterans or their families. Op Free Speech will use a multitude of tried and tested engagement methods, from one-to-one meeting, online video calls and group activities.

The program officer is a veteran who will help you through the process if you are struggling with mental health and how it impacts life in civvy street, if you just simply need to talk about your issues with those with similar lived experiences and battles through mental health interventions back into the community.

We are passionate about ensuring that guys like you find the support needed and that you are supported throughout the whole process. We want to provide a “safe space” for these veterans who need head space to speak freely about their experiences or issues resulting from these wars or their own experiences and problems faced in civilian life/civvy street; to be able to do so without judgement but with a commonality of understanding. We are also keen that their spouses are included as often they are forgotten with the primary focus being towards the veteran.

“Sometimes having the support of those that care and understand can make the world of difference”.

Op Free Speech is a free intervention but solely aimed at veterans and their families who have served in the UK Armed Forces in either of the Gulf Wars, Iraq or Afghanistan.

To make contact with the team, ring 02476 343793 or email contactus@veteranscontactpoint.co.uk

We will return you call and establish comms within 24hrs. We want to offer a none-hassle, bullshit free, no appointment needed, access point and support you on a One-to-One basis and when safe to do so with your agreement, extend the support to group intervention and activities.

 

The Veterans Foundation Provide Grant Funding to Support The Veterans Contact Point

 

The Veterans Contact Point (VCP) has benefitted from the generosity of grant funding made by The Veterans Foundation to help it establish and develop a VCP in Warwick South Warwickshire and to employ a member of staff for one year to help develop its own business support and operations.

This Southern VCP Office and Hub will provide a gateway and support interventions for much needed support to Veterans and their Families living in the South of the County.  The VCP has been successfully operating its main base in Nuneaton for a decade along with developing services and interventions for Veterans in the North of Warwickshire which are always open to Veterans from the South who can or are willing to travel to our HQ.

“The Veterans Foundation is one of the country’s fastest-growing military charities and we are proud to work with hundreds of smaller charities and charitable organisations across UK that share our passion: to provide a better life for our Armed Forces family who are in need (our beneficiaries).  They help their partner organisations by supporting them to deliver life-changing projects through their grant award scheme.

Many amazing charities like The Veterans Contact Point have significant financial constraints and the Veterans’ Foundation exists to champion their causes and to help them effect their objectives. They do this by funding projects and they also work with their partners to broadcast their initiatives to raise awareness of the challenges facing our armed forces community.  They know those challenges can often impact on family members and their pledge is to also offer support for the dependants of those who have served their country.

The Veterans’ Foundation has a unique story. They were formed in 2016 and they have grown quickly since then. Their  journey began by sharing the stories of our Armed Forces family on social media and this quickly escalated into a large, trusted community of friends and supporters. In just a few years they had engaged and interacted with millions of people, celebrating our Armed Forces and bringing hope of a better life to those in need of care and assistance.

Their supporters, you, are the heartbeat of the Veterans’ Foundation and through your kind donations, fundraising events and by playing their popular Veterans’ Lottery, challenges are being faced, overcome, and lives are changing for the better.”

The Veterans Contact Point second Veterans Foundation Grant will enable us to start to employ a Business and Operations Support Worker who will be employed initially with this grant for 12 months. This role will allow the Veterans Contact Point stability at a time in its development and growth as currently we are totally reliant for staffing through a very talented and dedicated team Volunteers, many whom are veterans themselves, and who themselves have been supported and wish to “Give Back”

The CEO of The Veterans Contact Point is amazed at the generosity of The Veterans Foundation and in them recognising the fantastic support and interventions that our small but effective Military Charity provide in our Armed Forces Covenant Area. This funding will go a great way in allowing the VCP to expand to providing a base in the South of the County that working with Warwick District Council and CSW AFC Partners will provide support for Veterans and their Families and an operating base for interventions such as Op Courage to be provided from.

Fellow Veterans Pay Final Tribute to True Coventry Hero

John Edward Downes (L/Cpl – 2 PARA & RAMC PARA)

30/04/1941 – 31/12/2021

 The Veterans Contact Point joins the Family and Friends of a much-loved Military Veteran Parachutist and Army Medic – Mr John Edward Downes (also known to many as Lonnie or Budgie) in remembrance and in celebration of his life.  Lonnie was diagnosed with an asbestos related lung disease, Mesothelioma in late 2020, but passed peacefully in hospital with heart failure.  In civvy street Lonnie briefly worked in waste collection and in 1972 he reported that poisonous waste was being dumped locally. As a direct result of this a bill was rushed through Parliament regarding the disposal of toxic waste and was passed into law in March of that year.  It is sad to note that around that same time Lonnie was himself exposed to dangerous asbestos waste.

Lonnie (Budgie) Downes (Centre) with fellow Para Veterans Rich and Roger

Lonnie started his military career with 2nd Parachute Regiment (2PARA), later transferring to the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) – Parachute Regiment Field Hospital to end his career as a Lance Corporal Para Medic, ending his military career to be with his family, returning to live in Coventry where he became a Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) Driver and an active trade unionist.

Lonnie Centre with Fellow Members of Bedworth Para’s

He was one of the founding members of the Coventry Airborne Forces Association which was formed to encompass those veterans who had served with Airborne Forces but not in the Parachute Regiment itself. Lonnie continued also to be an active member of the Bedworth Branch of the Parachute Regiment Association (also known as Bedworth Paras), where he became involved as a Welfare Officer supporting the welfare needs of former Para’s which included hospital welfare visits.

Coventry War Memorial Park – Lonnie (right)reminding Lord Mayor of protocols

Budgie was passionate about local veterans, especially those who had served with any of the UK’s Special Forces. His work involved the development of the Coventry Airborne Forces Association Memorial in Coventry City’s War Memorial Park, where he ensured that fallen veterans continue to be remembered. He was also involved in the memorials of two former Royal Marines Frank Parsons and Jesse Owen which are laid in Bedworth and Nuneaton.

 

He was also active in supporting his own local community of Longford being awarded the Good Citizen Award 2016. He has been involved in raising many tens of thousands of pounds for local good causes which have also included in 2014 a parachute jump in support of Coventry City’s Lord Mayors Appeal and supporting memorials that remember his fellow veterans such as the Pegasus Bridge Memorial which is now situated in the National Memorial Arboretum.

Lonnie on Armed Forces Day his mate Cecil Jeffcoate a D-Day Veteran and Wife

Lonnie was never shy of encouraging and enlisting support in his fund-raising efforts, none more a willing source than Leigh Watts the Landlord of his local The Greyhound Inn in Longford. The Greyhound also obliged Lonnie by allowing and supporting many fund-raising events and even permitting the situating of memorials for local veterans to be remembered.

Lonnie with his collection tin at the Greyhound Pub Longford

His daughter Shelley later said “It always amazed me how he managed to get so many people involved in his endeavours, pulling in help from many people”. The VCP and The Greyhound Inn are organising separate celebrative event in June 2022 where they plan to dedicate a memorial in memory of John Edward (Lonnie/Budgie) Downes.

Shelley also said that she remembered her Dad, “He was a man who would do anything to help anybody, whatever it took.  He always did things on his terms and with a spring in his step and a smile on his face. Our home was mostly full of chatter, whistling, singing and all-round cheerfulness, nothing seemed to faze him and problems were never around for long before a solution would be found. Dads diagnosis did not stop him, he remained positive, full of hope from the start to the very end. Two days before Dad went into hospital he had spent 4 hours delivering Christmas Cards, the morning that dad was admitted he had popped out in his car, nothing seemed to be able to stop him or slow him down. His heart was full of love, fun and joy to the very end.”

Picture taken on Armed Forces Day – Lonnie stood with Cecil (Right)

His fellow veterans from the Veterans Contact Point (VCP), which he said had become his place to go to for support and the charity of his heart, became very fond of Lonnie and his death really has impacted on the people with whom he volunteered alongside and those whom he became friends with. The VCP is very much driven by people like Lonnie, who are passionate about the mutual support and comradeship that they provide. It will definitely be a quiet place without his Friday whirlwind visits, talking about people and characters he had known and his “top men”.

Lonnie and one of his best mates Roger Vines (Veteran – 7th Parachute Regt Royal Horse Artillery)

Lonnie has a large family and will be missed by all including his Brothers and Sisters Ron (passed) Les, Sylvia, Phil, Elaine and Kevin. His Son, John, Daughter, Shelley, Son in law, Phil and Grandson, Carter.

He will also be sadly missed by everyone who’s heart he has touched, who’s good cause he has supported and who’s life he has made a little better by his friendship; by his fellow Airborne Family; his fellow Veterans; by his local and wider Community. “Lonnie old pal your reserve parachute didn’t work on this occasion mate”.

Lonnie pictured with General the Lord Dannatt and Warwickshire Lord Lieutenant Tim Cox – Re-opening the VCP 2019

Funeral details and location are not yet known, but his family have said that he requested a Military Funeral with Standards, Berets, Boots and Medals and they hope to honour his wishes. Funeral arrangements are being made with JE Hackett & Sons, Coventry  02476 367149 The wake is planned at The Greyhound Inn in Longford. The VCP are working with the family and will provide funeral information (when known).

Ring 02476 343793 or email contactus@veteranscontactpoint.co.uk

“We can no longer see you,
For the light that clothes you is too fine a fire
For our dull, ordinary eyes;
But every day we shall remember you
In the brave glory of the golden sun.”
– – –
Lieutenant Richard Spender – 2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment

 

Finally, it is time to say “Hello old pal, stand easy duty done, welcome to the final DZ”

A tribute to Lonnie Downes

Lonnie Downs

4th January 2022

It is with great sadness that we have to announce the passing of our fellow veteran and good friend Lonnie Downes.  Lonnie was a tireless supporter and fundraiser for the VCP, the Coventry Airborne Forces Association and the Coventry War Memorial Park, and was highly respected by everyone who knew him.

Stand easy, Lonnie, you will be greatly missed.  Our flag flies at half mast today.