Thanet Veterans – Belonging and Celebrating is funded by the Armed Forces Covenant Trust as part of their Positive Pathways Fund. Kent Arts and Wellbeing(KAAW) are delivering the project on behalf of Age UK Thanet, and are working with three creative artists – Catherine Arnell of Espression Arts, Adrian Bawtree musician and KAAW director, and Lydia Hibbert of the Young Animators Club.
The project aimed to provides volunteer supported creative activities for groups of older veterans, in care homes and the community, designed to improve creative competence, self -confidence, social isolation . There were four planned activity streams, centred on Maurice House they are
- A veterans’ community choir with strong social elements, led by a music director (MD) from a service family, with wide experience of community music and working with older people. There will be 40 sessions, starting after Easter 2021, each session lasting 60- 75 minutes. The repertoire will be selected by veterans who will also choose social activities integral to the choir. The MD will be supported by volunteers and at a later stage an accompanist.
An end of project concert, supported by the Central Band of the Royal British Legion will also celebrate the centenary of the Royal British Legion in Kent,
- A ceramics based creative activity will include mug and plate painting, working with and decorating clay, tile making and decorating. We propose 3 x 12 sessions each for up to 12 people. A professional artist with extensive experience of working with older people will lead the activity.The end of project activity, proposal is a mural to help celebrate the RBL centenary, made up from individually produced elements
- A fusion of story telling, drawing, photograpy and animation. We propose 2 x12 sessions for up to 12 people. Led by a professional animator, veterans will choose an object of personal importance, explain its significance, make drawings and photographs and create a short audio/visual animation telling their story. They will also make forays into the grounds to select a subject for a second animation activity. .Animation outputs will be used as visual input to the end of project concert.
All activities will be supported by at least 4 trained volunteers/community connectors, ensuring a close volunteers/veteran relationship providing encouragement, befriending.and linking veterans to the wider community/
- Reducing digital exclusion. The importance of social media has been underlined during the pandemic. We will employ 4 older volunteers to provide 1:1 support encouraging and enabling veterans to use a range of social media to reduce isolation. We propose supplying 10 tablets with wifi built in to provide access and reduce digital exclusion.
The supportive role of volunteers/community connectors is critical both for the project and its legacy. We want to recruit and train at least 8 volunteers, ideally veterans.
We will contact veterans
- in care homes and supported housing working with relevant organisational managers.
- in the community by our established referral routes and via AFV Breakfast club(Ramsgate), RBL branches, Ageless Thanet, Thanet’s Seniors Forum, and Thanet District Council’s newsletter
- via DWP
We aim to achieve the following outcomes
- Contacted all care homes(c50) in Thanet and identified all veteran residents, and identified at least 50% of veterans in the community to a level that we can have
- Made contact with 50% of identified veterans , so that we can have
- Engaged with 40+veterans plus family members, with a significant proportion under 65
- Improved their quality of life – measured subjectively and possibly with a Quality Of Life Scale
- Improved their sense of wellbeing, reducing anxiety and depression, measured by Warwick Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale and possibly the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, plus aspects of the Veterans Wellbeing Index, and subjective assessment
- Increased their sense of achievement and self-confidence through the activities and in particular through the end of project celebratory concert
- Raised the profile of veterans in the community
- Engaged with a range of organisations to provide a sustainable legacy
- Recruited, trained and developed our older volunteers as a community asset, using their life experiences, including surviving the pandemic, to help harder to reach veterans.
The actual achievements to date have been considerable but not fully aligned with the original planned outcomes. Three factors have heavily impacted on progress
- The pandemic has
- severely limited our ability to engage with care homes in Thanet, to such an extent that the plan to bring veterans from care homes to activities in Maurice House has had to be abandoned. We were however fortunate that for much of the year we were able to have creative activities in Maurice House
- resulted in closure of one venue for a 6 week period
- affected older veterans in the community many of whom have not wanted to engage in group activities
- In spite of extensive communications engagement of veterans living in the community on the project has been limited.
- There has been no interest in developing digital skills.
As a consequence of the above we have extended the finish date of the project to the end of May, and involved 50 different veterans and dependants, plus care home staff in the following
- Two successful ceramics activities in Maurice House, and are completing a third based on Age UK in Margate
- Two successful animation courses in Maurice House , and are running a third in Tankerton. This is one more course than planned as we have used funds initially allocated to purchase tablets to support this additional activity
- Singing sessions at Maurice House and some limited activity at Age UK Margate.
- Developing video support so that care co ordinators can apply a range of creative activities with minimal support – aiding sustainability and creating a capability to work remotely in case of future lockdowns.
- Supporting veterans to make animated films that will be an integral part of an end of concert celebration
- Planning an end of project concert on May 14th in Holy Trinity Church Margate. It will feature a veteran’s singing group, the Central Band of the Royal British Legion and a Military Wives choir. The animation work of the veterans will be integrated into the concert to provide visual links with the music which will be specially composed/arranged, and there will be an exhibition of the ceramics work.