Help is on hand for the veterans and armed forces community in Herefordshire who may be struggling with loneliness, being separated from loved ones, or adapting to civilian life this Christmas.

Because of the unique obligations and personal sacrifices armed forces personnel make, a range of forces-friendly, 24-hour helplines are on standby during the festive period.

Councillor Barry Durkin, Herefordshire’s armed forces covenant partnership chairman, says: 'I’d like to wish all of our local armed forces community a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

However, I’m aware that the festive period can be really tough and sometimes triggering, particularly for those who are struggling with isolation or mental health concerns.

As many of our local charities and services take a short break over the festivities, it is important that our armed forces community know that additional support is available around the clock.

It is essential that no one should feel isolated or continue to experience worries that can be helped, so whatever the issue might be, please do reach out for help; there is someone who will understand.'

National Helplines for the armed forces community:

  • Op Courage (NHS veteran mental health line) 24-hour call: 0300 323 0137
  • Samaritans (military and armed forces community support) 24-hour call: 116 123 or download the Samaritans Veteran app to your mobile phone.
  • Combat Stress 24-hour call: 0800 138 1619
  • Veterans Gateway 24-hour call: 0808 802 1212
  • SSAFA Forcesline: 0800 731 4880 - available from 9 am to 5:30 pm, Monday to Friday
  • Royal British Legion: 0808 802 8080 - available from 8 am to 8 pm, seven days a week

Local support is available on either side of the festive break from our armed forces charities:

  • Herefordshire Veteran Support Centre, 19 West Street, Hereford. This center will be closed from December 23, 2023, and will reopen on Wednesday, January 3, 2024, when normal opening times resume.
  • First Light Trust Cafe, 41-43 Broad Street, Hereford. The cafe closes on Saturday, December 23, from midday and will reopen on December 27. It will then be closed on January 1.
  • SSAFA Herefordshire will respond as soon as practicable during the festive period. Please call 01432 273932.

For those who find themselves having to sleep rough over the winter months, Herefordshire Council has opened an emergency winter shelter that will run throughout the winter months, in partnership with other organisations.

A warm, safe space will be available between 8 pm and 8 am daily. Advice and assistance are available from Herefordshire Council’s outreach team, which can be contacted at Blueschool House, Blueschool Street, Hereford, during office hours or by calling 01432 261600 (ask to speak to a member of the Outreach Team).

If you have concern that someone may be sleeping rough and in need of professional support, members of the public can contact StreetLink. This will send a notification directly to the Rough Sleeper Outreach Team who will be able to take appropriate action. In addition, there is also a range of local advice and support to help keep people warm, well, and safe at Keep well in winter - Talk Community Directory