John Lennon said life is what happens to you when you are busy making other plans. If there’s anyone who knows a thing or two about the unpredictability of life, it’s The Fire Fighters Charity’s Welfare Services team.
“Unforeseen things happen to everybody at some point in their life, and can be just as disruptive as a physical injury, so it’s our role to support beneficiaries as they navigate their way through them,” says Welfare Services Lead Carrie Donohue. “We support, advise and signpost, trying to empower people to be as independent as possible while they adapt to their change of circumstance.”
This can include signposting to advice, providing information on statutory entitlements, taking action to alleviate financial hardships, aiding independent living, offering support in your home following ill health or helping you through a bereavement.
“Everyone deserves a basic standard of living, and we bring this support out to people’s communities,” says Carrie. “No two people are the same, therefore no two packages of support at the same, nor are the lengths of time we’ll take to work with a beneficiary. The variety of what we do is immense, and the skills and knowledge of the team is incredibly in depth.”
Despite only having five members of staff in the team, Welfare Services treat every single case on an individual basis, and rely on a network of community volunteers around the country to assist with home visits. As soon as a referral is made to the team, it will be picked up by a case worker who will get in touch with the beneficiary to decide the best course of action.
“All of our case management ensures people get the interventions that best meet their specific needs,” says Carrie. “People come to us with multiple needs; for example a debt situation could mean someone faces becoming homeless. In the short-term, we would make sure they have somewhere to sleep and food to eat, and in the long-term might help financially with a security deposit on a property, and vouchers to buy some household essentials, while consulting a debt agency for advice on preventing it happening again. There may be mental or physical health issues that have led to the debt situation or caused a relationship breakdown, for example, so we also work closely with our psychological and physical teams for their input.”
As well as liaising with internal specialists, the team also works closely with statutory services, occupational health teams, physios, occupational therapists, social workers and GPs: “When it comes to the people we work with to try and find the right solution for each beneficiary, the list is endless. Every case is treated differently, and rather than put people into boxes, we take a holistic approach, looking at the whole picture, working with the whole family or support network to get the best possible outcome.”
Among cases the team have supported with include providing Sainsbury’s vouchers for people struggling to put food on the table, organising for specialist equipment to help family members with complex health conditions, installing stair lifts and wet rooms, and even sourcing martial arts classes to help someone increase their social network after the death of their partner.
“We deal with the unseen, invisible problems, that may sound small but have a huge impact on people’s wellbeing,” says Carrie. “Their stories aren’t big dramatic ones on a grand scale; these are ordinary people dealing with the ordinary problems that all of us experience.”
One couple who benefited from the help of the Welfare Services Team is Arthur and Susan Stubbington. Married for over 50 years, the couple live in Southampton, where Arthur served as a firefighter from 1962 until his retirement.
Susan cares for Arthur, who has dementia and sometimes gets confused about certain things. When she tripped on her back step and broke her wrist, the prospect of leaving Arthur to visit one of our centres for the rehabilitation she needed was an impossible one. During a home visit to organise care in the community and a local physio, Carrie quickly realised there was more the Charity could do to support the couple.
“While she was here, she realised we were having real difficulties getting Arthur up and down the stairs,” says Susan. “The Charity offered to put a stair lift in, which has been… well, I can’t tell you what a blessing it has been. He had a two-week stay in hospital, and if we hadn’t had the chairlift, we’d have had to put a bed downstairs because he was unable to get up the stairs without it. I think the Charity is amazing; they don’t just look after those in the brigade today, they look after oldies like us! I never thought that would be the case. There’s not a big enough thank you I can give to be able to convey our thanks to Carrie and the team.”
If you think you could benefit from the help of the Welfare Services Team, or from The Fire Fighters Charity generally, get in touch today on 0800 3898820.