Clive Ward

Branch Secretary of SSAFA Hampshire and retired Colonel of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers Corps.

Clive Ward

Branch Secretary of SSAFA Hampshire and retired Colonel of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers Corps.

Veteran Clive Ward left the Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers as a Colonel in 2008 after 35 years. He then joined Army HQ in Wilton for 10 years until he retired in 2018. For 10 years he has volunteered at SSAFA, taking on several different roles and is now Branch Secretary for one of the charity’s biggest branches, Hampshire. He tells us what makes Hampshire unique, and why others should consider volunteering for SSAFA.

Why did you join SSAFA?

“I joined because my wife was already a SSAFA caseworker. She has been for 25 years now, and I saw how valuable her work is.

“When I became a civil servant in 2008 it became very obvious to me that I had more time and ought to and could do more for those that were still serving. So I took up case working in the Test Valley.”

What is your role like in practice?

“Being a Branch Secretary is actually about making sure that all the divisions, within the Hampshire area are working smoothly and operating well and keeping good standards. I try to make sure that people get the right case workers, at the right place at the right time. It’s really a management role at the branch headquarters.”

“I’ve only been in the role since November and I think the role is exceptionally tricky because of the vast area. 10 Divisions, all operating very differently, but all within a central office umbrella.

“We receive a welter of cases and potential cases across the desk. We get them by phone or we by email. I must ensure we manage those in a timely fashion. It’s important people are contacted as soon as possible when they reach out to us. It’s no good piling it up for another day, we need to react quickly."

What is the need in Hampshire? What sort of cases are you seeing in the area?

“In previous times it was really looking after WWII veterans and supporting them with their needs. However, now we are meeting a much younger clientele from more recent conflicts, with some very complex issues.

“We certainly see a lot of mental health issues, which makes our work exceptionally difficult. Debt is another issue that we see time and again. It seems that many people leaving the service are not as well prepared for civilian life as they should be, and paying bills and budgeting is a huge factor, especially for our younger soldiers. In that regard the real world can be tough for people used to being looked after by the military.”

So, what does SSAFA do for people that need them?

“I think the thing that SSAFA has that no one else does, is really dedicated caseworkers who get out and meet clients. Many other charities provide money, but SSAFA engages with clients in their own environment and that’s our unique selling point. That human touch is so important for someone who needs help, it makes them feel safer.

“From SSAFA’s point of view, when caseworkers visit a client at home to help them with a single issue, they may actually identify multiple needs or even a ‘root cause’ to a problem. Often what we are told at the outset is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s that face to face interaction in the clients environment that gives us the opportunity to see the big picture - not just what they first present.”

Does your military background help you carry out your role?

“Yes, I believe so. I understand and have empathy with people that have served, and I find they open up much more when you start talking about things they know. If I can relate to a place they’ve been to or talk to them about service conditions they know you really recognise them.

That doesn’t mean you have to have been in the military to help SSAFA though. Many of our most valuable volunteers are not military. In my experience however it has helped me a great deal to connect with people.”

What do you like about volunteering for SSAFA?

“You see your actions make a difference; they change things.

“There are moments when you help an individual with a problem, and it’s not a temporary fix, it’s life changing. Some people may see some of our outcomes as trivial, but they certainly aren’t.

“We helped a very elderly gentleman, who wanted a mobility scooter. When we got there, we realised where he was living wasn’t fit for purpose. We worked with the housing association to get his place redecorated, to make his fire safe, and make him comfortable.

“We also found out he was in the parachute regiment during the Second World War and he never got his medals. We worked to get them, and on Remembrance Sunday he turned out dressed in his para hat and medals and that was brilliant to see.

“He died recently, but for the last years of his life, he changed from being someone who was waiting to die, to someone who was enjoying life again.

“That’s what you from SSAFA, when you make a proper, sustained difference.”

What are you most proud of in your time with SSAFA?

“I’m most proud of being caring, but secondly, I am proud I keep us working quickly. I don’t like dragging heels and the bureaucracy that’s out there. I like to break through barriers to get people help, and that’s the bit I think I find most satisfying.”

Have there been any difficult moments volunteering for SSAFA?

“Yes of course, there are difficult moments when you work with real, complex people. Sometimes you advise a client and they don’t want to do what you know is most likely best for them. Sometimes they don’t want the help you know you can give them. But then I remember that ultimately I am there to solve the problems they raise with me – and we have to respect their choice."

Would you recommend becoming a SSAFA volunteer?

“Absolutely. Volunteering can range from being a caseworker, mentor, visitor, fundraiser through to divisional secretary and so on. All those roles are very different and if anyone is interested, understanding the different jobs is important. There is always something to help with, even if you’ve only got a few hours to offer.

"All you can do is try it, and if it isn’t for you, then you can step back. But it’s better to go for it, than wondering what if?”

And what about the people who fundraise or donate to SSAFA?

“That money that people raise is essential to making sure SSAFA can do what it does.

“So, what I say to them is I’m inspired, I’m gobsmacked really at the amount of money they raise and the amount of effort they put in to making it happen.

“It’s not a light undertaking to put on an event and yet people want to do it.

“Money, it’s a horrible thing to talk about, but without money we can’t do what we need to do.”