Small grants worth over £450,000 create a big impact for Armed Forces Communities in the final round of Force for Change

March 26, 2024

We are delighted to announce grants totalling more than £450,000 have been awarded to 34 outstanding projects in the final round of our Force for Change programme. This small grant programme supports projects that reduce isolation and promote integration in local Armed Forces communities.

Fostering social connections

Receiving £15,000, Coleraine Veterans Club offers local Veterans support and hands-on activities at their Cornfield Project Site in Coleraine, Northern Ireland. The club provides Veterans with a range of outdoor activities, a monthly breakfast club within the local community and a beach club group at Benone Beach.

Outreach Worker Ian Ellis told us: “It is fantastic to be awarded this grant from the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust Force for Change programme to help support our Veterans project.

“The project offers local Veterans the chance to take part in some great outdoor activities such as bee keeping, horticulture and archery skills at the Cornfield Project in Coleraine. This funding will help sustain provision onsite for local Veterans and enable us to keep our maintenance staff to ensure the smooth running of the project.”

Empowering military children

Support Paws is a pilot scheme from Veterans with Dogs, that introduces Community Dogs to UK schools to provide emotional support for military children. They have received an award of £14,800 in this latest round. Collaborating with SSCE Cymru and BERA, the project aims to improve wellbeing, resilience and educational outcomes.

Craig MacLellan, Veterans With Dogs CEO, told us: “Securing funding through the Force for Change programme is a pivotal moment for Veterans With Dogs and for military children in schools. This support will empower us to make a meaningful difference in their lives, providing essential support and assistance through our Support Paws programme to help them thrive despite the challenges they face. We are honoured by this opportunity and look forward to positively impacting the educational journey of our military-connected students.”

Specialist guidance for carers

Suffolk Family Carers were awarded £14,419 for their Armed Forces Family Carers Connected project, which will provide a series of information, advice and guidance workshops for adult family carers in the Armed Forces community.

Sarah Potter, Mental Health and Wellbeing Service Manager at Suffolk Family Carers explains: “This grant will allow us to co-produce and deliver a series of information, advice and guidance workshops for adult family carers in the Armed Forces community, bringing them together to build networks, decrease isolation and receive bespoke information related to their rights and entitlements as family carers in the Armed Forces community.

“Armed Forces Family Carers Connected can be accessed by any adult, living in Suffolk with a caring role in the UK Armed Forces community. The grant will allow us to engage with this often-unseen group of family carers and provide them with much needed information and support.”

A boost for isolated Veterans

STEPWAY will run an outdoor community project which will provide a safe place for Veterans and family members to meet and learn new skills. Activities will include beekeeping, a mushroom farm, archery, bush craft and how to grow your own produce at home. The project received a grant of £14,999.

Dawn Turner, CEO at STEPWAY, said: “We are delighted to receive a grant from the Force for Change programme. This funding will enable the charity to support Veterans and family members at the community project, providing free activities for the whole family to enjoy. Sandwell is a known deprived area, and the cost-of-living crisis has hit the local community hard. Therefore, not only will this grant help Veterans find their sense of belonging, it will also reduce feelings of loneliness, isolation, and improve overall health and wellbeing.”

Funding enables improved support

It’s not the first time STEPWAY have received funding through the Force for Change programme. In February 2023, they received £10,000 for their Banter and Brew project. We asked Chief Executive of STEPWAY, Dawn Turner, how the project has progressed…

“The Force for Change grant has enabled the charity to open two new Drop-in services (Banter and Brews). This has come to the attention of the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital, Northfield, who have invited STEPWAY to deliver a service there as most of their staff and patients are Veterans or still serving. Therefore, the grant has helped STEPWAY to upskill a workforce, and discover a hidden cohort of Veterans within the NHS Trust” she explained.

In May 2023, they employed Regional Co-ordinator Neil, to oversee their Veterans’ drop-in centres in Worcestershire, which provide free breakfast and social activities for Veterans and their families. With increasing demand on services, the coordinator would act as a key lead, ensuring continuity, sustainability and coordination.

They have since opened two new Banter and Brew services in Bromsgrove and Redditch, and have also expanded their activities at their existing services in Worcester, Oldbury, Upton Upon Severn and Kidderminster, as well as through the Veterans forums in HMP Oakwood and Hewell.

Working in partnership with various organisations, including the Midlands Veterans’ Places, Pathways & People portfolio, has enabled the charity to deliver a more holistic package to the local Veteran community.

By September 2023, the project was supporting 78 beneficiaries (34 Veterans and 44 family members). Feedback gathered from attendees and family members is positive – two Veterans have entered back into work following engagement with the project and one has expressed that his plan to take his own life was halted the day he attended a Banter and Brew.

Regional Co-ordinator Neil, who is ex-Navy, is also a beneficiary. Neil lost his previous job to redundancy and since taking on this role at STEPWAY, he has expressed he feels a newfound purpose.

More than £6 million awarded in small grants

Since 2020, the Force for Change programme has awarded over £6 million to 484 projects across the UK; supporting everything from gardening, woodworking and crafting, to social clubs, support networks and community groups. These projects have shown us that small grants really can create a big impact within our Forces communities.

Sonia Howe, Director of Policy and Communications at the Trust, adds: “The Force for Change programme has provided accessible funding to a wide range of organisations supporting Armed Forces communities across the UK. We are proud of the difference these small grants have made, from large and small charities, community hubs and drop in centres, Armed Forces organisations, schools and more. This final round of awards has continued to reflect the ethos support for our Armed Forces personnel, families and Veterans in the communities where they live.”

Find out more

For a full list of all awardees from this round and previous rounds of the Force for Change programme, click here.

Want to find out what’s next for the Covenant Fund? Join us for a Lunch & Learn webinar on Thursday 25 April, 12 noon to 1pm to hear how findings from the Armed Forces Covenant Consultation we held last year are underpinning the development of future Covenant Fund programmes. Full details available here.