Thursday, 25 June 2015

Change Step - led by veterans for veterans

Stephen Jones has recently taken on a new role with the charity Kaleidoscope

He works to support veterans and their families in Powys, particularly in respect of any problems associated with military service and the transition to civilian life. 

A lot has been written about the mental health of service and ex-service personnel, such as this 2013 report from the Mental Health Foundation.

We asked Stephen to tell us more about his new role and why it is needed in Powys.

You seem to have two separate but linked roles - tell us more

I have recently become the Listen In Project Co-ordinator for Change Step – this role sees me supporting families, friends and carers of veterans to aid in promoting recovery from problems associated with military service and the transition to civilian life.

I am also currently a Change Step peer mentor aiding the veterans themselves, providing a unique peer-led service.

What led you to these particular roles?

As a veteran myself, and a volunteer for Kaleidoscope (the substance misuse service in Powys), my personal journey is and can be seen to be very similar to those who I support.

Steve at Ystradgynlais Welfare Club
How do you define the term “veteran”?

A veteran is anyone who has served one day's service with the Armed Forces, whether it be as a reservist or full time member.

Tell us more about why veterans in Powys need the kind of support you offer?

It can be a very daunting process, leaving the military to joining civilian life, with there being many changes to day to day life. Sometimes it can appear to be a lonely process and there are many new challenges ahead for those leaving the forces. In particular some veterans may be experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or issues surrounding family life, housing, and also substance/alcohol misuse. I feel that anyone leaving the military may benefit from a quick chat with someone who has been in their shoes and understands these unique issues.

Do you know how many veterans there are in Powys? What barriers might prevent them seeking support and how do you work to overcome those?

I would imagine that there are many veterans in Powys, and we also have a large Gurkha population in the county. Powys is a very rural area, which could present as a barrier within itself. I work Powys-wide, so can travel to see those who cannot travel to see me, helping those in remote areas.

Trust is also a barrier, which is where Change Step and Listen In assist greatly as we are veterans supporting veterans.

Are there particular issues which arise in rural areas for veterans experiencing mental distress?

I think it is hard for anyone suffering mental distress, and I think the main issue is being heard, supported and knowing where to go for that support.

Steve at Dering Lines Army Camp 
Drink Drive Awareness Day
What kinds of activities are available to support veterans in Powys, and in your experience which are found to be the most appreciated and/or useful?

There are various support groups in Wales such as Combat Stress, Veterans Wales, Royal British Legion (RBL), SSAFA (Soldiers Sailors Airmen & Families Association) and many more. I am having meetings with the RBL and hope to open drop in centres in some of the major towns in Powys, where veterans can pop in for a cuppa and a chat.

What support is needed by the families of veterans who struggle to make the transition to civilian life? What is your role here? 

It can be hard for veterans to adjust, however it is also hard for the families to adjust – they may have lived apart for some time and be used to a different lifestyle, maybe in military accommodation in this country or abroad.

They will also potentially see their family member 24/7 for the first time, and also experience issues surrounding witnessing their family member suffering with PTSD. They could feel isolated and not sure where or who to turn to.

What is the most challenging aspect of the job?

I think that the main challenge with my role is making sure that I can reach all those who need our support – there are a lot of veterans and families who may need support however have not yet heard of Change Step or Listen In, something which we are working hard on changing.

Can veterans sign up to volunteer with the project? If so, what are the criteria for people who are interested, and what kind of roles are available?

Yes, and we would like to see veterans signing up as this in itself can help alleviate some issues surrounding isolation or boredom, and also help those who have not yet referred into the service. Contact us for further information.

When you are not working for Kaleidoscope, how do you enjoy spending your time?

I am a keen fisherman and spend a lot of my spare time at the coast. I also enjoy camping in the summer months.

Many thanks to Stephen for taking time out to update us about his new role. You can contact him at Kaleidoscope: 9 Castle Street, Brecon, LD3 9DD, tel: 01874 622333, mobile: 07738 320 390, or email

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