An Armed Forces charity is having to support veterans across Leicestershire with grants to help pay energy and food bills as the cost-of-living crisis continues to bite.
And, with interest rates continuing to rise, Help for Heroes says that it is increasing the funds available – to support immediate needs – and meet the anticipated increase in requests for help.
Nationally, the charity has already paid out grants worth more than £12,500, in the period from April to June, and has helped support almost 100 individuals this year, who would otherwise have struggled to make ends meet. Help for Heroes’ welfare teams say they have witnessed for themselves the toll this is taking on veterans and their families.
The charity’s average award in the first half of this year was £150, for food only, but the average since then has been £380, which has included an allowance for energy, where there was a clear need.
Claire Barnes, Head of Grants at Help for Heroes, said: “Without doubt, what we are currently seeing is just the tip of the iceberg. Many of our veterans are feeling particularly vulnerable. The impact of the changes in the economic climate means they are facing cuts to their benefits, as well as needing more energy to meet their basic needs.
“Some are dependent on specialist equipment – such as ventilators, oxygen concentrators, hoists, or wheelchairs, all of which are powered by electricity. Others live with health conditions, such as spinal injury or amputations, that require careful temperature regulation, because they cannot maintain their body temperature themselves.”
She added: “We are also witnessing an increase in anxiety from veterans and families about how they will make ends meet, in a way that doesn’t compromise their basic quality of life. Those with pre-existing mental health issues may well face more anxiety in just trying to live day to day. Our funds are not endless, but we must work with our veterans and families to do all we can to reduce the anxieties they are experiencing.”
In the last full financial year, 2020/21, Help for Heroes awarded £414,000 in grants to veterans and families in need. These, typically, fund housing adaptations, adaptive equipment, and welfare support to help veterans facing challenges to live well.
But, throughout Covid-19 lockdowns, the charity also met requests for emergency food baskets for veterans who were shielding, in poverty or unable to work, and the current economic climate suggests a much larger percentage of the overall figure this year will cover grants for food and energy.
Veterans or close relatives in urgent need of help with food and energy bills can get support from Help for Heroes at: https://www.helpforheroes.org.uk/get-help/
Several other charities are also providing this crisis support, including Regimental or individual Service Benevolent funds, and can also be approached.