'When you’re in the forces, everything is much simpler': Outreach worker helping veterans leaving Armed Forces

An ex-member of the Royal Air Force is using her experience to help veterans in South Tyneside get their wings.

Annual Armed Forces Day in South Shields on Sunday orgainsied by the Bad-Landers Motorcycle Club and South Tyneside Council
Annual Armed Forces Day in South Shields on Sunday orgainsied by the Bad-Landers Motorcycle Club and South Tyneside Council

Fay McLellan, who was in the RAF for four-and-a-half years, is supporting ex-forces personnel returning to civilian life.

The 27-year-old is an Outreach Worker for South Tyneside Homes, dedicated to helping the borough’s veteran community with housing, finance and health issues.

Fay, who was medically discharged from the RAF last year, said: “I was lucky in that I didn’t really struggle with the return to civilian life, but so many ex-military do.

Councillor Ed Malcolm, Chairman of South Tyneside Armed Forces Forum

“When you’re in the forces, everything is much simpler; your accommodation costs come out of your wages and you never have to worry about things like utility bills or council tax.

“There is some resettlement briefing before you leave but it is minimal so people are generally quite unprepared for life on the outside.

“The skills that you develop in the military are fantastic but it can be quite hard to transfer those back to civillian life.”

Fay, who has been in the post for almost a year, provides one-to-one support and advice to veterans about housing, resettlement, training and employment, education, income, benefits, injury compensation and other issues.

She works in close partnership with other organisations such as mental health services and charities such as Walking with the Wounded and SSAFA.

She said: “When people come out they are often lost and lonely, the camaraderie of the forces is gone, and I understand that feeling only too well.

“I think what I bring to the role is personal experience and empathy; as soon as I say I am ex-military I can see the barriers come down.

“I could be doing anything from handling a referral for our veterans’ move on accommodation to just attending an appointment with someone for moral support.”

Fay has helped 46 ex-military personnel, both long-term veterans and those who have recently left the forces.

Coun Ed Malcolm, Armed Forces Champion and Lead Member for Resources and Innovation, said: “The intensive support that Fay provides makes a real, tangible difference to veterans’ lives.

“The feedback we have received has been very positive and we have heard some great stories about families reconnecting.”