DMWS Welfare Officer, Justine Clayton is one of the shortlisted finalists for the Family Values Award at this year’s Soldiering on Awards.

Justine works under the Sustaining Communities Project in Somerset, a project which is funded by the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust and delivered by DMWS. Justine has been with our organisation since 2020 and being married to a veteran is part of the military community herself. Before joining the DMWS team, Justine worked with disability charities, Women’s Refuge and was both a county and district councillor for Taunton/Somerset West.

As a Families Welfare Officer, Justine is responsible for looking after the family unit as a whole; “when we’re looking at the road to recovery for our service users it’s really important to include the family,” Justine said, “in many cases spouses, children and/or carers need just as much support.” Many of the cases Justine works on are extremely complex, dealing with issues such as suicide, PTSD, substance abuse, domestic abuse, criminal justice system and more.
To give service users access to a larger support network, a significant part of Justine’s role is about creating connections with services, organisations, and public bodies. “Creating those connections is only half the battle,” Justine explains, “building trust between myself and these families is extremely important, a lot of them have been let down and they need someone they can rely on.” As a families’ welfare officer Justine’s role is community-based, and therefore, she has to work actively to make connections with service users and find those who require help.

The work Justine does can be transformational for families, by stepping into the fold to advocate for those who need better support Justine is able to help action real change. Reflecting on her work Justine said, “I recently supported an individual with PTSD who couldn’t work as he was a full-time carer for his disabled daughter. Tragically she passed away in their family home. The impact on his mental health was horrific; the couple felt they couldn’t stay in the house anymore. I appealed to Home Finder and got them reassessed with the right documents after a previous rejection. The family got re-banded and now have their dream home—it’s down the road so their son can continue going to the same school.”

Somerset has one of the highest veteran populations in the UK, with an estimated 55,000 veterans and dependents, and to ensure the veteran community is better supported Justine has made her presence known at Musgrove Park Hospital. She has worked directly with the hospital’s psychiatric teams to help staff be better attuned to the needs of veterans and their loved ones. Justine has also helped Musgrove Park Hospital in obtaining their ‘Veteran Aware’ accreditation, which was awarded gold status in July 2022, the first time this has ever been achieved in Somerset. “The lived experiences of these families are uniquely different to civilians,” explains Justine, “by educating hospital staff on the differences veteran and veteran families experience we can make a real difference for them.”

In a time where informal care is so heavily relied upon to sustain the physical and emotional wellbeing of veterans, it is crucial to provide support for those who care. Justine’s dedication to supporting military families is extraordinary and worthy of acknowledgement; she is a lifeline, both to the individuals who have served and for the families who have dedicated their lives to service but who are often forgotten. At DMWS we are extremely proud of our staff and all their achievements, and we are thrilled to have Justine be shortlisted as a finalist in the Soldiering On Awards 2022 and to be recognised for the outstanding work she does for the Somerset community.

The St John and Red Cross Defence Medical Welfare Service (known as DMWS) is a registered charity in England and Wales (1087210) and in Scotland (SC045460) 

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Published: 22nd July, 2022
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