A NEW ‘social prescribing’ programme has been launched in Cornwall aimed at supporting our armed forces community with their mental and physical wellbeing.

As part of the project, two Armed Forces Community Social Prescribing Link Workers (AFCSPLW) have been recruited to help veterans and their families access the right kind of help.

This can be anything from medical care, mental health support and community activities to help with housing, finances and employment.

Having served in the armed forces themselves, the pair have first-hand experience of the difficulties and barriers veterans can face and are therefore ideally placed to provide advice and empathy.

The programme ran as a pilot for two years between 2021 and 2023, and successfully supported more than 250 people.

It was showcased at a special conference during the national Armed Forces Day event held in Falmouth last June when it received widespread praise.

The programme aligns with the Armed Forces Covenant in Cornwall which aims to ensure that those who serve or who have served in the armed forces, and their families, are treated fairly and that special consideration is appropriate in some cases.

Funding has now been secured to continue the programme for another three years, delivered by Active Plus and overseen by Public Health, Cornwall Council and the NHS Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Integrated Care Board.

Social prescribing is an approach that connects people to activities, groups, and services in their community to meet the practical, social and emotional needs that affect their health and wellbeing.

Cornwall has one of the highest proportion of veterans (6.3%, 30,229 people) in the UK.

Exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, many are said to be struggling with social isolation as culturally they may not want to ask for help, may not always know where the help is and may already be struggling with physical or mental injury.

Councillor Dr Andy Virr, cabinet member for adults and public health at Cornwall Council, said: “It is great news that we are able to continue funding this programme to support our veterans and their families here in Cornwall.

“Working with our partners across the health and social care system, we have pledged to offer more personalised care and social prescribing and this project proves how seriously we are taking this commitment. It also aligns closely with our mental health and suicide prevention strategies, which are a top priority for health and wellbeing services across our communities.”

Dr Matthew Boulter, associate clinical director for Armed Forces & Veterans, NHS Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Integrated Care Board, added: “I am delighted that this sterling work to improve the health and wellbeing of our veterans is to continue. Cornwall has a high proportion of veterans and we are keen to ensure that no matter what their age, gender or ability is, those who have served our country have the support they need to live happy and healthy lives.

“Across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly we are supporting GP practices to become ‘veteran-friendly’ and to identify which of their patients have served in the armed forces. Our Integrated Care Board is also officially recognised as a veteran friendly organisation.”

Cllr Martyn Alvey, cabinet member for environment and climate change and an RAF veteran, added: “Research has highlighted the vast physical and mental health inequalities experienced by the armed forces community so this programme is welcome and very much needed.

“Veterans often do not engage well with organisations that are not designed specifically for them and commonly will not access or engage with people who they feel do not understand what they have seen, done, and are currently going through.

“They get frustrated at having to tell their story repeatedly and being passed from organisation to organisation. They often ask for a single point of contact who could provide access to the right organisation at the right time in a layered or step by step manner, and this is exactly what the new link workers will be able to offer.”