Each month we ask people who are either involved with The Ripple Pond or who we’ve met on our travels for an insight into what makes them tick, what inspired them and what they can bring to The Ripple Pond members.
Linda Fisher set up Shoulder to Soldier to help relieve the needs of people who have served or who are serving members of the Armed Forces and their families, in particular by providing relief of financial need; providing support, advocacy and practical advice; and providing and assisting in the provision of recreational facilities in the interests of social welfare.
1). What is your connection to the military?
I have worked with veterans and Armed Forces Families for a number of years providing advocacy support, writing letters and representing them and tackling what I have seen to be injustice. In 2016 I was a finalist in the Soldiering On Awards for my work across the Northwest, I have a huge amount of respect for our Armed Forces and it is important to me that we look after them and provide support when they need it.
2). What triggered the passion to make policy changes to the extent that you do?
I have always been and always will be a passionate campaigner and advocate for Armed Forces Families. As a former Council Chief Executive with 22 years local government experience and a qualified solicitor, I am firmly of the view there are gaps in both the legislative and policy frameworks that currently shape both access to and the delivery of services to support Armed Forces Families. In the absence of a specific Department for Armed Forces Families within the Government and with the current approach of the Armed Forces Covenant we will need to continue to advocate for policy change.
I am very much an action not words sort of person and if I can see a need for change, or experience unnecessary bureaucracy inefficiency, then I will advocate for Armed Forces Families and campaign for change. I am a great believer in supporting organisations to listen and learn from customer experiences and implementing changes to those services where needed.
3). Your campaigns are varied but hit a poignant mark, such as the fireworks campaign and the GP awareness campaign. What makes you take on specific campaigns?
We take on specific campaigns to raise awareness about Armed Forces Families within our communities and to campaign for change.
The firework campaign is a prime example many people have fed back that they would not have even thought about the negative impact of random fireworks on Armed Forces veterans. The campaign has led to discussions about mental health and PTSD. We have made significant in roads with the campaign and this year the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents has added advice and a link to our campaign on their website. We would like to see further awareness added as a simple bullet point in the firework code.
The make yourself known. Print off the letters and take them into Local Councils, GP’s and other service providers to say. “ I am here, I am an Armed Forces Family member. Update your computer system and let me know how the fact I am an Armed Forces Family member will improve my access to services and service delivery”. It is about not waiting to be asked. Not waiting for the Census requirements to change, this will take too long (2021). Families need support now.
Finally we organised the signing of the Country’s first Combined Authority Armed Forces Community Covenant in 2014 and requested all other Combined Authorities to follow suit. We also introduced the position of a lead officer for the Armed Forces within a Combined Authority area and again want this replicated across the Country. We believe we need to hold all Legal entities to account in the delivery of services to Armed Forces Families.
4). How can I get involved?
Please visit our website www.shouldertosoldier.org.uk and use the contact us form, or email firstname.lastname@example.org let us know how you would want to help and support us.
5). Ripple Pond members often come up against local bureaucracy, financial cuts or nay-sayers when it comes to councils. What advice can you give to a single individual to push an agenda forward?
Get in touch with Shoulder to Soldier. We provide advocacy services for Armed Forces Families and our Founder has significant local authority experience, is very familiar with escalation processes and the legislative and policy framework of Local Authorities. The key message is not to give up, just get some additional support. The financial reductions exist but the delivery of statutory services remains and Armed Forces Families are customers. Public bodies are still accountable and we must hold them to account. We would be proud to work alongside you.