Volunteer Richard Parker knows better than most how difficult the transition from military to civilian life can be.
The Sheffield resident spent 21 years in the Army and was injured by an IED while serving his country with the Royal Artillery in Iraq.
Medically discharged, he struggled with post traumatic stress back home.
But since then the dad has also helped other veterans who are battling to cope, as a mentor for the Take2Project in Sheffield, which provides a comprehensive support programme for ex-service personnel.
The scheme was put together to meet the wide-ranging needs of vulnerable and struggling armed forces veterans, providing bespoke packages of support for each individual rather than a one-size fits all approach.
Richard, aged 44, said: “I spent 21 years in the Army and came out classed as disabled. I found it horrendous because there was no help - that’s why I was so keen to jump on board with Take2.
Steve and Richard are both fantastic veterans of the British armed forces and the work that they do is amazing
“I had gone to my lowest point.
“As one of the biggest recruitment areas for the forces, the lack of organised help did come as a surprise.
“Being able to relate to our clients, I came on board from the beginning as a lead mentor, providing one-to-one support to participants and their families. The range of needs is much broader than I first thought – veterans come out of the army with very complex issues.
“No one agency can meet all of their needs and I think the Take2 Project approach of working with a group of agencies has proven to be a very effective way of helping.
“It’s fantastically rewarding to see people turn their lives around.”
Take2 was born in 2014, when local military organisations noticed a gap in support in Sheffield for early service leavers, the most vulnerable to experiencing trouble transitioning back to civilian life. Due to demand it soon extended services to all ex-service men and women in Sheffield.
Since then, 34 individuals have been helped by the 18-month pilot programme. A dozen were moved into safe housing, 14 helped with training and 10 moved into employment.
Helping one client meant that mentors Richard and Steve Lowe worked for 14 hours straight to ensure he had a roof over his head by the end of the day.
After they had secured Tony McKeating housing, they continued their support by providing a mobile phone so he could stay in touch with support agencies and much more besides.
Tony said: “The Take2 Project has really helped me. I was homeless at one point and in a very sticky situation. I was put in touch with Steve Lowe and it totally turned my life around.
“They have rehoused me, sorting out training courses, my personal development – I couldn’t ask for anything else, it’s second to none.
“Steve and Richard are both fantastic veterans of the British armed forces and the work that they do is amazing.”
The pilot programme was formed thanks to South Yorkshire’s Community Foundation and the charities Action and Mind, with the support of Sheffield Council and grant funding from the Ministry of Defence Community Covenant Fund.
Project organisers are currently seeking further funding so the project can continue and expand into Rotherham.
A consultation with members of the ex-serving community in South Yorkshire by Take2 found that 65 per cent do not think there is enough provision in Sheffield for veterans.
Each veteran surveyed suffered from at least one mental health problem – anxiety and depression being the most prevalent. Financial struggles and finding work were also common issues.
Ruth Willis, chief executive of South Yorkshire’s Community Foundation, said: “Every agency and person involved in Take2 has made an incredible effort to make this project a success.
“We have helped 34 people turn their lives around and that is down to their hard work too. Now the pilot has come to an end we are doing our best to get the further funding we need to continue this project and expand its reach to Rotherham to support 120 veterans.”
The Take2 team and its supporters at Sheffield Town Hall recently hosted an event celebrating the scheme.
Clients were given achievement awards and mentors were honoured for their dedication.
Afterwards Tony encouraged more veterans to come forward for help.
He added: “Just call out for help. If I hadn’t then I probably wouldn’t be here today.
“It’s the support and the help that they give you makes you realise that you are actually worth being here.
“Don’t think twice, just do it. Get the help, sort yourself out and you can be in a position like I am now.”
* To get involved and see how the Take2 Project can help veterans go to: Take 2 Project
* To give your support to Take2 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
* Find out more about the charities involved:
* South Yorkshire’s Community Foundation is at South Yorkshire Community Foundation SYCF distributes grants to local community and voluntary organisations. If your group needs support go to South Yorkshire Community Foundation apply
* Action is at Action
* Mind is at MIND