Throughout the United Kingdom there is a steadily growing number of Drop-In centres where any member of the Armed Forces community, and sometimes the Merchant Navy, Fishing Fleet, and Blue Light Services and their families, may go for help and advice, or simply to relax over a cuppa with like-minded comrades. All Drop-Ins extend a warm welcome with refreshments, some offer general welfare support such as housing and employment advice, some have activities to promote wellbeing and some provide access to mental health support. This routinely takes place under one roof, at the same time and in an informal environment. The Association of ex-Service Drop-In Centres (ASDIC) aims to link all these Drop-Ins together so that they can offer each other mutual support and make them more accessible to those seeking help.
Drop-Ins vary hugely in their modus operandi and no two function in exactly the same way: some are very small, some more like a one-stop-shop, but all serve the same overall purpose of helping the ex-military community in need. ASDIC Drop-Ins are open at least once a month and will be supported and attended by local organisations or representatives of national bodies to serve the needs of individuals. These may include the likes of SSAFA, the Royal British Legion and other recognised Service charities, a selection of health and welfare organisations such as the NHS, Citizens’ Advice Bureau, Legal, DWP or local council services, and many individual – often local – organisations offering activities for the enhancement of general wellbeing and a sense of belonging. There are over 120 Drop-Ins operating in the UK at present and the number joining ASDIC as members is steadily increasing.
ASDIC Regional Structure
The principal objective of ASDIC is to help Drop-Ins work together and support each other, so that they can improve what they offer and become more accessible. A secondary objective is to make it easier for state, charity and third sector organisations to support Drop-Ins, thereby helping them to work together more effectively and make the most of their resources. To enable the most coordinated approach, and to take account of local practices and procedures, ASDIC has 21 volunteer Regional Coordinators who are the immediate points of contact in their regions and provide feedback to the ASDIC Management Team for action as required. The structure and boundaries of these regions can be seen on a Map of the UK.
ASDIC Membership Benefits
Key benefits of ASDIC include joining the Directory of Drop-Ins, recognition as an accredited ASDIC member with use of the logo, and guidance and advice on best practice, especially with regard to governance, funding and training opportunities. More detail can be found in the ASDIC Framework Document
While each Drop-In retains its individual identity as originally set up in, ASDIC gives them the benefit of other people’s experience across a wide network of support, and when necessary enables them to refer Service Users to more appropriate or specific alternatives.
ASDIC operates both tactically and strategically across the whole of the UK. It covers all Services, all ranks, both serving and former, and deals with any reasonable welfare and/or social need. These wide responsibilities reflect a fairly unique and valuable position shared with only a few other organisations in the veterans welfare sector, and with the Confederation of Service Charities (Cobseo), the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust (AFCT), Veterans Gateway, Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) and the Veterans Advisory Pension Committees (VAPCs). Close relationships with these organisations are therefore vital for ASDIC in developing the UK wide picture of need from our experience of all issues at the coalface.
At the strategic level, and given the very important links with Veterans Gateway and the Map of Need, ASDIC promotes regular liaison by supplying vital information on our member Drop-Ins and their contact and operating information for inclusion on these websites. This information is then used by the Veterans Gateway helpdesk for signposting, and directly by veterans themselves when searching for help online.
ASDIC also maintains informal liaison at both the national and local levels with a wide matrix of any and all organisations which can offer assistance to veterans in need. These obviously include the large number of Armed Forces charities but also local authorities, NHS services, Citizens’ Advice Bureaux, and many others. Regional Coordinators are encouraged to build and maintain their own lists of, and liaisons with, local assistance bodies, and these close links can often facilitate more rapid provision of relief.
The UK also has a vibrant grouping of ex-Service Breakfast Clubs. These are not wholly dissimilar from Drop-Ins but tend to concentrate more on sociability and comradeship than making direct links with external welfare organisations. However, there is often some degree of overlap in operation, and ASDIC maintains a good liaison with their opposite numbers in the Breakfast Club community.