By Kris Jepson
A new mobile phone app, developed by Northumbria University's Northern Hub for Veterans and Military Families Research and the US tech firm RippleNami, Inc, has been launched to help support veterans across the UK.
The first of its kind in the UK, the Veterans’ Gateway app provides a comprehensive interactive digital directory of all services available for almost three million veterans across the country.
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The interactive app provides veterans with the locations of local hospitals, substance abuse clinics and details of how to access education, financial assistance, employment support, housing and shelters.
It includes a recently added layer of support for those facing new challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Researchers say the app has been designed to draw anonymised geolocation data on what users are searching for, to help to identify particular issues that may be faced within different regions. This data will be used as evidence to show government where funding needs to be invested to improve services for veterans.
The mobile application works on the principle of four clicks of a button and you’re leaving the application and getting the help that you need. We look at data from multiple sources of service usage and of this search history and from that we actually look at predicting what services are going to be required in what areas, in what sort of numbers and then that then helps the government and helps the major charities plan their services.
The new app builds on the success of the Veterans’ Gateway online directory, which groups together all NHS facilities and over 2,000 charitable organisations across the country, allowing veterans and their families to access local support as and when it is needed.
Since being set up in 2017, Veterans’ Gateway has received over 47,000 calls and has signposted ex-forces personnel and their families to the wide range of support available to them.
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Sergeant Tom Ripley served for the Royal Irish Regiment between 1977 and 2004, completing several tours of duty, including the Gulf War in Iraq and Kosovo.
Now living at Catterick Garrison and working as a welfare officer, helping other veterans, he told ITV News Tyne Tees this app will help a lot of veterans who have experienced issues like PTSD.
I was quite an angry man. I would have periods of time when I didn’t feel well at all. Cold sweats, flashbacks, guilt. It was difficult for me to find a voice to express my feelings. It would have been different, because the app you can use in the comfort and security of your own home and it gives you that anonymity, whereas going out seeking help, you have to talk to somebody face-to-face and as I say, men can find that embarrassing. I certainly found it embarrassing.