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A Day in the Life of...Scottish Veterans Project Manager, William Cairns

We sat down with William to find out more about the MEDALS programme and how he supports veterans on a day-to-day basis.

William started with Walking With The Wounded (WWTW) initially as an Employment Advisor and now as Scotland’s Veterans Project Manager, and has been with WWTW since 2016. William is embedded within Scottish Veterans’ Residences (SVR) homes in Glasgow and Dundee and Edinburgh. William provides employment support to the ex-servicemen and women who living in the SVR supported accommodation. William’s role also involves Project Managing the Armed Forces Covenant Funded MEDALS programme (Mindfulness Education, Developing Active Lifestyle’s via Sports)

William, what is the first thing you do with a client when they are referred to you?

Help the clients get comfortable talking to me and give them a little bit on my background and how I can support them move forward in their lives. I provide them with an overview of the background of WWTW and what they can expect in terms of support and what other help is out there to help them along in their journeys. It's about getting to know the clients and building trust by delivering what you said you would do.

What does a typical session with you look like?

I meet service users regularly; sometimes that is every week or could be once a month depending on the individual needs. I spend about half the time in each session continuing to build rapport and getting to know service users on an individual basis, their hobbies and interests - showing an interest in them as individuals. The rest of the time I am supporting with their employability, which could be developing appropriate CVs, job searching, making applications or job interview skills. I also actively support the guys engage with as many activities that interest them including volunteering and getting involved in community-based activities and learning. I often engage with the veterans I support in relation to the MEDALS programme to ensure that the project is being led be them and what will help them improve their own mental health and wellbeing.

How much support is there for veterans in your area?

There is support. The team at SVR, where I am based, is there to support service users with often complex and varied needs. There are local training providers, housing options and statutory provisions, like the job centres and Citizens Advice Bureaus. There are also many military charities and organisations in Glasgow that can offer our cohort extra support.

What are the greatest challenges your service users face?

Certainly in recent times it has been the detrimental impact of COVID 19 on our beneficiaries mental health as the pandemic continues the impact of lockdown and local lockdowns are starting to show in our cohort as most of the guys I support have had mild to severe mental health issues prior to lockdown. They are now starting to really feel the impact on their mental health due to things like having less social interaction, small social bubbles and less services accessible at all or in their traditional forms.

What is the Veterans in the Community and MEDALS Project?

It is a project to enable veterans to volunteer to do good work within their communities with a group of their peers. It means those who are further down the road to independence can mentor those who are perhaps at the early stages of working with us. I am thrilled to have secured funding from the Covenant to allow us to run this project. I hope that it will boost service users’ self-confidence, value and sense of community. It will also increase employability; providing those involved with up-to-date recent work experience

The MEDALS programme is designed to support veterans engage with non-psychotherapeutic activities that can help them improve their mental health and wellbeing. Activities like engaging in Mindfulness, Sports, Outdoors, art and Music Therapeutic groupwork as well as visits to sites of national and cultural heritage are all part of the project. Some of the activities that have safely taken place so far in 2020 include Fishing and Therapeutic Drumming and some veterans will go hillwalking in the near future.

And lastly, what’s the best bit of this job?

Dealing with veterans of all ages, backgrounds and characters that have served their country. Supporting them to make informed choices and help them along a pathway into independence through work. I also enjoy the banter and seeing the clients make progress towards their goals as well as really enjoying supporting them get out and do things that can have a positive impact on managing their mental health through the MEDALS project. I also think the team at Walking With The Wounded are fantastic and a source of great knowledge should you ever need help or advice, from the ground to the senior management team we all try to live the organisations values.

To find out more about WWTW’s employment service and William’s work contact