New alcohol and drug support service for servicemen and veterans at Cromer charity base

Andy Wicks, from the Junction in Cromer, giving support to a member of the armed forces.

Andy Wicks, from the Junction in Cromer, giving support to a member of the armed forces. - Credit: Archant

An 'innovative' idea to help servicemen and veterans across Norfolk who suffer from alcohol and drug misuse will be rolled out from a Cromer support hub.

The Outside the Wire scheme has been launched by the Norwich-based Matthew Project and will be led from the Junction on Garden Street – part of the Matthew Project.

Two ex-forces personnel – Andy Wicks and Toby Lipton – will be at the helm.

Mr Wicks, who served 22 years in the RAF police, said: 'We want to catch people who fall through the loop. We at the Matthew Project are seeing more and more people from the ex-service community coming forward and it is not just blokes.'

He added the project would not duplicate the work of Help for Heroes and Combat Stress and would work with Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA) Forces Help.

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It would be tailored to individuals and would include one-to-one support, family support, free treatment services, relapse prevention and alternative therapies.

Rosaline Weetman, chief executive of the Matthew Project which focuses on drug and alcohol support, said: 'We are very excited about it. It feel as a though it is a niche area that has not been covered previously.

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'There has not been a great deal of research into substance misuse in the armed forces.'

Mr Wicks added some current serving personnel and veterans were concerned they would not be listened to by people from a non-military background but would respond better to people who have 'got the T-Shirt'.

He said one of the reasons why veterans drink was because of the current economic climate.

Sue Pilcher, Norfolk branch secretary of SSAFA, said she was concerned there would be increased problems with alcohol and drug misuse because of redundancies in the armed forces.

Rod Eldridge, from Norwich Mind who was a clinical nurse specialist for the army for 27 years, said the rate of alcohol misuse in the veteran community and current serving members of the armed forces was higher than the non-military community.

He added: 'If we spent more time dealing with alcohol misuse rather than post traumatic stress disorder, we would have a better outcome.'

Call 01263 510900 for information.

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