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11 February 2019, 16:09 | Updated: 11 February 2019, 16:13
Norfolk and Suffolk are two of four counties selected to pilot a new project aimed at supporting RAF veterans who face loneliness and isolation.
The RAF Benevolent Fund, the RAF's leading welfare charity, is launching a Community Engagement Worker scheme to help older RAF veterans get involved in their local communities.
The scheme comes in response to research carried out by the Fund which highlighted these challenges as issues which most concern the older generation of RAF veterans.
Pete Ashcroft, Welfare Projects Executive at the RAF Benevolent Fund, said: "The Community Engagement Worker project is just one measure we have introduced to tackle the issue of loneliness and social isolation among older veterans. Other new initiatives include a Telephone Friendship Group service and group wellbeing breaks.
"This year marks the RAF Benevolent Fund's centenary and we are asking the public to help us reach out to the members of the RAF Family who may have fallen off the radar and let them know, we are here to help. We want to ensure every RAF veteran, no matter how long they served, receives the support their service to their country deserves."
The Community Engagement Worker will get to know the social activities, groups and associations across (the area) and work with individuals to understand what the barriers are to them becoming more socially engaged and help them to overcome that, from attending a veterans' breakfast meeting with someone for the first time, to establishing activities where none currently exist.
Declan Geraghty, 44, of Thetford, will be taking on the Suffolk Community Engagement Worker role.
His 24-year career as a Royal Air Force armourer means he knows the service well.
He said: "It has always been deeply humbling, the sacrifices that whose who fought before us made and as an RAF veteran I have some insight into that.
"This is an opportunity of a lifetime, and I feel like I'm part of the RAF family again. Success in this job is going to be very different for each person. This is about individuals and what they need to feel part of the RAF Family, and the wider community again."
Sue Grogan, 54, of Downham Market, has spent the last two years working with lonely veterans as part of the Forces Friends scheme and will also be a Community Engagement Worker.
The daughter of an RAF veteran, she says her father's experiences have given her an invaluable insight into the challenges facing older veterans: "I'm looking forward to getting out into Norfolk and finding those veterans who really need our help but do not always recognise or admit that they do. We can offer a vast array of support services to former serving personnel and I am excited to get out there and let them know!"
The pilot scheme will run for two years.