AT EASE opened its first advice sessions in 1974 but the founding steering group first met in 1973.
AT EASE is an unincorporated voluntary group offering free services to members of the Armed Forces. It is staffed entirely by Volunteers and receives no money from Central Government or any local Council; for ethical reasons
we have not applied for Lottery funding. This means we are entirely dependent on voluntary contributions and membership fees.
In addition, we receive occasional donations and bequests from those who have supported our work.
AT EASE is fortunate that the Westcroft Trust pays for the office space for our regular weekly drop-in centre.
Voting Membership is open to all members of At Ease. Enquiries about membership should be made in the first instance in writing to the At EASE office. Two references are required. A small annual subscription is due in July.
A Committee runs matters on a week-to-week basis, but all members have the right to influence policy at our Annual General Meeting.
One of the great advantages of this structure is that we are able to offer those who seek assistance, what is appropriate to them without outside influence or pressure. The disadvantage is that we cannot afford paid staff, so regret we can offer a service only on one evening per week.
Those who seek our help are those that find their personal needs or ambitions thwarted by the strict military regime in which everything is governed by the Queen’s Regulations. There is no typical problem; Courts Marshal, requests for discharge, disciplinary or grievance related issues are just some of those which we encounter. In addition there is a wide range of social difficulties including depression, combat fatigue, dependence on drugs or alcohol, Gulf War syndrome and disputes about pension entitlements.
This service is especially needed, since members of the Forces do not enjoy employment protection or the right of Trade Union membership. At times of difficulty the very closeness of relationships on which the Forces depend can impose severe limits on the individual or family whose needs differ from what their service provides for.
Those who seek our help come from any of the services, Royal Navy, the Army or the Royal Air Force, as well as their respective reserves (the Royal Naval Reserve; the Army Reserves and The Royal Auxiliary Air Force respectively) and sometimes from foreign enquirers. In addition they come from all sections of their service whether the recruit of two months service or the Senior Officer at the end of a distinguished career.
Because the work is specialised, many first heard of us from diverse organisations such as the Citizens' Advice Bureau, 'Agony Aunts' in newspaper columns, NHS Direct and directory enquiries. Often the first contact is not made by the service person themselves, but a relative, friend, or partner. We observe confidentiality strictly, and only intervene with the express permission of the service person concerned.
We are currently seeking volunteers who can give around 4 hours a month for our London drop-in centre - we are happy to provide induction and training. We are also happy to hear from those, whether they be those with proven interpersonal skills or ex-service people to offer services in other parts of the country. We cannot support the training of student counsellors, for their number of hours.
Leaflets about the work of AT EASE are available free on request