Paul Wallace is a member of The Royal British Legion's Oakengates & District Branch in Shropshire, and volunteers as a Home and Hospital Visitor as part of the Legion’s community support.
It was while visiting a veteran in Telford Hospital that a social care worker asked if he would consider meeting another ex-Serviceman on the ward, Terence Lake, when he was discharged.
"Terence was an in-patient recovering from a stroke. I said I was more than happy to add him to the list of veterans that I visit."
Calling On The Legion
When Paul visited Terence at his home, he decided it was important to get the Legion involved.
"His home was not conducive for independent living," explained Paul.
"His house had also been burgled while he was in hospital, which made the situation more difficult. I decided to contact the Legion’s welfare team."
"Paul referred Terence to us and that’s when I got involved," explains Mike Webb, who was a Legion Case Officer at the time.
Oakengates Branch’s Paul Wallace, right, and Legion Case Officer Mike Webb
"I went to his home address and it was evident that he was living in a dilapidated property – it didn’t have any central heating, double glazing, that kind of thing.
"It was September and the temperature was starting to drop, so a decision had to be made as to whether he could stay there or not.
"In the end, it was decided that, unless significant funds were spent on the property, he couldn’t stay there in his condition, with his lack
"That’s when I arranged a joint-agency meeting with contacts in other local organisations, such as the social services, Environmental Health and a Shropshire-based social support charity called Thrive," adds Mike.
Between the various groups, it was agreed that Terence would be assisted in his current property until an alternative solution could be found.
The Legion tackled the financial aspects of his case – helping him to secure more benefits because of his recent disability, and increasing his pension income – and the Environment Agency conducted a deep clean of his house following the burglary. Thrive put in bids for properties on the social housing list on Terence’s behalf.
Paul made a point of continuing his visits on a regular basis, keen to ensure that Terence didn’t lapse back into social isolation while the agencies tried to sort out a better long-term future.
A New Home
Fortunately, by December a one-bedroom, warden-controlled flat had been found and secured for Terence, and he moved into it straight away.
"I and a few other branch members assisted with the move, doing the lifting and shifting," says Paul.
"Mike also helped him out with some new appliances and furniture, thanks to another local charity, with his old furniture and fridge freezer being more suited to a skip!
"Terence was in his new place and settled before Christmas, which was fantastic.
Terence Lake (centre) outside his new home in Telford, Shropshire, with Paul Wallace and Mike Webb
"It’s a very good example of joined-up working, how disparate agencies were able to help and support social care.
"We all clubbed together and pulled in the right direction to get him into his new place before the coldest part of winter."
Paul still sees Terence twice a month, and takes him to a Legion social afternoon that he runs once a month.
Working with Veterans in The Community
"I’m sure there are many more ex-Service men and women like him up and down the country who would benefit greatly from a helping hand from their local Legion branch.
"He’s just one of 12 older veterans on my branch’s books who we visit and support regularly.
"It’s a very good example of joined-up working, how disparate agencies were able to help and support social care."
"Not only is it a way of overcoming the social isolation that is often a factor in the Armed Forces community, by giving these veterans a friendly visit a few times a month, it also means that we can identify any needs that the full-time Legion welfare service can pick up.
"Terence is now a happy bunny and enjoys getting out and about, too."
Mike agrees: "In himself, Terence seems to be a changed person. Before he was quite tucked away, lived in his property for 15 years and didn’t really get involved with anyone.
"Now he is quite bubbly and part of a little village in his social housing, which has got a nice community feel to it."