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Shipmates and Opps scheme continues to deliver

More than 670 Naval Service leavers signed up to the Royal Naval Association’s Shipmates and Oppos (S&O) programme during its second year.

S&O was launched in January 2016 to provide ‘an arm around the shoulders’ of those who have just left the Naval Service by signposting charities and organisations that provide support, and by making annual welfare checks for up to five years after the leaving date – ‘second-phase contact’.

A total of 671 signed up in Year 2, the majority through nationwide Release Desks, although applications can also be made via the website or through the QR code on the valedictory certificate.

Second-phase contact has resulted in more than 540 individuals being called or emailed since April 2017 – an effort that has elicited a variety of responses, all of them positive and supportive of the initiative.

Examples include: “Wanted to reply to say thank you for the email; it’s always nice to be reminded that there is someone for me to look to in difficult times, but I am doing all right at this time.”

And: “In all honesty, I have struggles with civilian life. I haven’t been able to find a job with my injury, and I’m still appealing for my medical pension; this has made life extremely hard. I wouldn’t mind getting some help.”

More than a dozen shipmates have benefitted from General Secretary S/M Paul Quinn’s CV-writing service over the past year, and the period also saw the inclusion of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary as a partner Association.

The leavers’ letter and information leaflet specific to the RFA has been distributed since February this year inviting RFA personnel to join the partner associations as well as the RFA Association.

S&O is run by two members of RNA Central Office staff, Deputy General Secretary S/M Andy Christie and Deputy Project Manager S/M Chrissie Hughes.

This dynamic duo travel the length and breadth of the country to visit RN and RM establishments. In the latter part of last year they covered nearly 3,000 miles, visiting Scotland and the West Country.

During the reporting period they attended a Career Transition Partnership open day, the HMS Neptune resettlement fair and were invited to witness the dedication of new tanker RFA Tidespring.

Chrissie Hughes said: “It’s pleasing to know that most Service leavers do make a successful transition, although it is apparent from the daily phone calls and emails that there is a requirement for an assistance programme of this nature.”

Pictured: POWtr Susie Cavanagh of 30 Cdo RM with S/M Andy Christie