RSL & Services Clubs Association

Veterans Centres Network

THE NEED

Many ex-service personnel, particularly younger veterans, feel disconnected from most of the 3,474 Ex-Service Organisations (ESOs) identified as providing services to veterans and their families. They continue to feel disconnected from the ‘older’ veteran community. This does not mean they are not proactively trying to engage with and support each other in the community. Evidence of their connection shows up on multiple social media forums. They are proactively organising events, get-togethers and peer support networks but often do not have the necessary skills or financial backing to make these programs work effectively.

In many cases, younger veterans have sought to engage with existing ex-services organisations but have found that their operational models, their focus and the limited services on offer are not able to meet the needs and aspirations of veterans of recent conflicts. The ‘generational divide’ limits the responsiveness and connectivity between existing services and the requirements of younger veterans and currently serving or recent ex-service personnel.

THE CONCEPT

The proposal is to establish new Veterans Community of Practice (Collective Impact) Centres, to be known simply as “Veterans’ Centres” in a suitable location in regions across NSW. Each veterans’ centre will provide the coordinating body to bring licensed clubs, established ESOs, including local RSL Sub-branches, Government (including Defence) and community-based organisations and services together to provide young veterans with information, support and meaningful engagement.

This is not exclusively about bringing together organisations focused solely on veterans and their families, post-discharge. There are a major benefits in integrating the veterans’ organisations with other community services, such as Emergency Services/First Responders. The model is focussed on elevating the current levels of service provided by Sub-branches and other ESOs to a more veteran-centric, professional full-time structure of coordinated support and case management.

The proposed new Centres will be independently run, each with its own Board of Management established to manage operations, employ staff and build local support and engagement, and with Advisory Committees of local stakeholders to support each Centre’s Board.

The Veterans Centres will identify and continue to nurture opportunities for veterans and their families in each region to remain connected to self, family and their community ensuring they don’t feel isolated and alienated.

The distinctive characteristic of the Veterans’ Centre is the operational model: they employ full-time, tertiary-qualified, professional advocacy and counselling staff, operate five days a week, and also provide a 24 hour telephone ‘hotline’ service to assist veterans experiencing personal crises. The Veterans’ Centre manages the coordination of all services, support, training and engagement that the ex-service client requires, as a case manager.

Through whole of life personal and professional development planning, financial literacy, career coaching (and ultimately transition), ongoing community engagement and peer support programs, veterans will be well prepared to transition in and out of Defence (which fits with Defence Service Category employment opportunities). If young veterans are given the skills to retain the responsibility for their lives, and build autonomy, and challenges and issues are dealt with early through connecting personnel to support and services, many issues can be avoided ensuring veterans remain positive and contributing members to the community.

VETERANS CENTRE SERVICES

Each new Veterans’ Centre will be responsible for, and established as, the centre of excellence in four areas that have been identified by young veterans as primary requirements for their health and wellbeing, engagement and support. They will either be created by the VC or through collaborative agreements with organisations that tailor the product for the VC stakeholders. The four areas of excellence are:

1. transition and career coaching
2. financial literacy
3. community engagement and collaboration (this includes family stability)
4. peer support programs focused on developing identity and meaning outside the military

The VC will conduct intake interviews to ascertain and coordinate the requirements. This will be written into a plan, in consultation with the client and other stakeholders, and managed by the client coordinator or client service officer at the VC. Clients will be connected to the following (not limited to the list):
 
- immediate welfare needs
- family support (partners, children, family relationship)
- housing support
- counselling
- advocacy
- drug and alcohol counselling (VVCS or other)
- Education (member, partner and children)
- jobs and employment support
- training providers
- community engagement programs and organisations

All services would be coordinated, reviewed and managed by the VC, including management of the payment of services. They will ensure a high level of corporate governance and compliance. It will also provide visibility and transparency of the products and services being provided ensuring they are coordinated, which will work towards positive outcomes and the eventual transition of most clients to independent and autonomous living. Maintaining case management and coordination activities within the centre would provide and support research and knowledge that would increase the ability of organisations to evolve and change according to the needs of the veterans and their families.

The VC would not isolate themselves to Defence or veterans’ only organisations. There is a significant benefit in coordinating activities, products and services with the wider community, especially Emergency Services organisations. This ensures veterans remain connected and integrated throughout their entire career, whether that be four or forty years. This benefits and supports transition, resilience, adaptability and responsible living as part of the wider Australian community.

The VC will also be the Transition Support team for residents of the Homes For Heroes program who seek to move out of H4H residential care into community housing in their home area. The VC team will assist with coordination of housing, employment, counselling and support and ongoing health management for these men and women to manage their integration back into the community.

Kelliegh Jackson
VCN Managing Director