On his appointment as Governor of The Royal Hospital, General Sir Adrian Bradshaw, following up on the manifesto he declared in his application, set about establishing a Veterans Outreach programme aimed at leveraging the influence and reputation of the Royal Hospital Chelsea (RHC) to provide more direct support to veterans, particularly the elderly, living beyond the perimeter of the Royal Hospital estate.
The COVID pandemic thwarted progress in delivering the programme as swiftly as had been planned but in September 2022 ‘RHC Veterans’ Outreach’ was launched. Initially RHC is piloting ‘Chelsea Outreach’, which focuses on veterans in the Greater London area for whom travel to the Royal Hospital is relatively easy. A series of themed events have been run at the Royal Hospital, where veterans from all three Armed Services and the Merchant Navy are invited to enjoy comradeship, and shared memories, hospitality and some fun alongside the ‘In Pensioner’ residents of the Royal Hospital. The aim of these ‘Gateway Events’ is to meet veterans and establish a network of those who may benefit from sharing the activities enjoyed by Chelsea Pensioners on a more regular basis and become in essence ’Out Pensioners’. This offer will expand once other planned facilities within the Royal Hospital come online.
The programme relies heavily on the active involvement of In Pensioner volunteers connecting and engaging with veterans from outside. As evidenced by their enduring popularity, most Chelsea Pensioners are already experienced and skilled communicators with the members of public as part of their role, both formally and informally, as representatives of the wider veteran community during the many visits and events that they attend. At its most simple this programme is about a veteran who maybe lonely and isolated sharing a cup of tea, maybe a sticky bun and some banter with a Chelsea Pensioner.
As part of the programme, RHC is collaborating closely with NHS partners, in particular with local GP practices who are keen to make use of the programme as a social prescription alternative to medication or treatment.
The Royal Hospital is also dependant on the veterans’ networks already established by other service charities such as SSAFA, ABF, RN/RM Associations and especially Regimental Associations to spread word of the events. The RHC website is also now promoting the programme and publicising events.
The Royal Hospital is supported in its programme by delivery partners including, among many others, Department of Work and Pensions, Op COURAGE, SSAFA, Samaritans, and BLESMA. Most of these partners attend the events and provide advice and assistance to veterans as required.
As General Adrian put it at the launch, “we are currently conducting ‘reconnaissance by fire’ and once we have established the numbers and requirements of veterans beyond our immediate perimeter we will have a better idea how we should proceed. We plan for Chelsea Outreach to continue for the foreseeable future with monthly events, as well continued attendance by Chelsea Pensioners at countless other activities, including various veterans drop- ins, breakfast and lunch clubs and other more formal events. In due course, and having developed our modus operandi we intend to extend this offer beyond London and, offer a ‘Nationwide Outreach’ element in partnership with local service charities and organisations in regions where there are large concentrations of military veterans.”
For flyers for the events and for more information go to: https://www.chelsea-pensioners.co.uk/outreach
Contact: Lt Col (Retd) Jonny Lowe – Head of Veterans Outreach, The Royal Hospital Chelsea