We mark Armed Forces Day by looking back and celebrating two years of success at our Veteran Wing at Lawson House Extra Care Housing Scheme in Larkfield.

Five years ago, we set out on our first fundraising effort to raise £2.8m for a veteran wing at our forthcoming extra care housing scheme in Larkfield. Recognising that leaving the forces and finding provision of housing with support in later life can be incredibly difficult, the organisation wanted to do its bit in providing not just a home but an all-important supportive ear.

In his speech at the start on site celebration in the autumn of 2016, the then Lord Lieutenant of Kent, Lord De L’Isle, who backed the scheme said: “Inherent in the job of working in the armed forces is a high risk of harm, both physical and psychological. Rapport Housing & Care’s commitment to providing support to people who served the nation valiantly is admirable.

“It can be a lonely and sometimes hostile world for those leaving the forces. As an ex-regular soldier, I have come across veterans who need additional time to adapt to changed circumstances. Those suffering need to be able to call on more support in the changed environment outside the military, if they are not to fall between the cracks in these different circumstances.”

Fast forward two years and thanks to a generous donation from The Lawson Trust and the efforts of our fundraising committee, the scheme was ready to open in the summer of 2018. We were over the moon to be inundated with applications, but the 20 veteran apartments were oversubscribed, echoing the organisation’s thoughts that there are many people who served our country struggling with their current circumstances.

Since the scheme opened its doors another two years have passed and it’s been wonderful to see the building transform from a development, into a friendly and supportive community. We are always thrilled to hear from our residents on their thoughts of the scheme and how they find living there.

John, an ex-paratrooper moved into his apartment in October 2018 and quickly noticed an improvement in his wellbeing. “My anxiety is much better.” He says, “where I lived before, I was afraid to go out as there were problems with the neighbours and drug use, but here, I am much happier and never looking over my shoulder. I was overwhelmed that I could bring my dog too.”

Now, those living in the veteran wing have come a real support for one another and many friendships have developed.

Jil Stanley, Housing Officer at Lawson House said: “It’s been lovely to see the community grow here at Lawson House. The veterans have regular meetings and gatherings and enjoy socialising together. They’ve enjoyed outings to Shepherd Neame pubs and some of them even went on the D-Day 75th anniversary trip to France together. It’s been a real success!