After a frenetic spell of providing support to veterans of the armed forces across our region, Project Nova and South Yorkshire Police might be forgiven for raising a toast to a successful first year.
Instead, the partners are looking ahead to a busy end of year and a spike in demand.
“Christmas and the New Year can be a challenging time for the vulnerable and lonely and our veterans are no different,” said Project Nova North of England Manager Steve Lowe.
“During the coming weeks a small minority of the tens of thousands of armed forces veterans in South Yorkshire will fall foul of the law but our team will be on hand to help pick them up and provide the support they need to overcome the difficulties they face, and importantly cut the risk of them reoffending.”
Project Nova is a partnership between RFEA (The Forces Employment Charity) and Walking With the Wounded, working together to support veterans who have been arrested or are at risk of arrest in South Yorkshire and neighbouring forces across the majority of northern England.
Since inception across South Yorkshire and the partnership’s first full month of operation in October 2016, officers have referred 446 veterans to Project Nova, which offers help and advice around: • Mental health • Physical health • Families and relationships • Alcohol and substance misuse • Employment • Finances • Accommodation • Training • Economic-social support
Temp Inspector Dave Struggles, advocate for the project across South Yorkshire Police, said: “Project Nova is an extension to the SYP commitment to the armed forces covenant, which was introduced to give veterans a helping hand when it’s needed most.
“It’s encouraging to note that our officers have referred well over 400 veterans to project Nova in just over a year, roughly around one-a-day, and will no doubt be referring more people to the service over the festive period.
“Christmas can exacerbate underlying problems and we will be on hand to help deal with them. “Early intervention steers people away from criminality and reduces the demand on police resources, while presenting people with the opportunity to receive support from Nova’s partner agencies, including the NHS, fellow statutory authorities and veteran specific organisations.”
Not all Project Nova’s referrals are made after a veteran is arrested. An increasing number are the result of community policing referrals, where officers come into contact with ex-military personnel in need of support. Project Nova has expanded its referral system from those that have been arrested, to those who have come into contact with the police and simply need support. This includes allowing people to self-refer.
Richard is a fifty-something veteran who was sleeping rough in woods when the local authority referred him to Project Nova. “Within 24 hours of talking to Steve I had a flat to live in, food in the cupboards and a few quid in my pocket,” says Richard.
“He made me go to the doctors to get checked out for both my physically and mental health. He’s an angel of a man.” At present, individuals who pass through police custody are all asked whether they are a former member of the UK armed forces and whether they wish to be referred to Project Nova.
And recent improvements to police software systems have increased the speed of referrals, enabling the charity to make speedier contact with those who need it.
Insp Struggles added: “Thanks to our new system, the referrals to Nova will be immediate, meaning more people will get the support they need while still in crisis, setting them on the road to recovery sooner. It’s another positive step that will strengthen our partnership.”
Veterans can refer themselves to Project Nova by calling 0800 917 7299 or email: info@firstname.lastname@example.org Follow the project on social media by searching Twitter for @ProjectNova_UK and Facebook for ProjectNovaUK