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Veteran Friendly Framework: ‘It’s about respecting and valuing our veterans’

St Mary’s Riverside care home in East Riding, Yorkshire, achieved Veteran Friendly Framework (VFF) status in February 2024. Here, Home Manager Laura Barnsley talks about improving care, and increasing the recognition and respect of veterans.

Home Manager Laura, with RAF veteran Keith

The Veteran Friendly Framework (VFF) has had a huge impact on the home. It’s opened our doors to the local community and allowed us to give recognition to the veterans we care for, which they deserve.


I hadn’t heard of the VFF until our Managing Director mentioned it to me during a Zoom call. I’ve been a Home Manager for over 30 years, and I’m always looking to throw myself into something that’s beneficial to the residents and the staff, and to do something a little different. She’d found out about it and thought it would be a really good thing for me and our care home to do.


We’ve rejected the opportunities of accreditations in the past because I’ve not been able to see the benefit it would bring the home, or because we weren’t passionate about it. But after doing research I came away thinking there wasn’t a single reason for us not to do the VFF, I had no doubts whatsoever. I knew it was going to be a worthwhile one. This was something we wanted to do and something we knew would improve the wellbeing of residents.


‘We loved it so much’


It only took us three weeks to complete the Framework, because we threw ourselves into it. We had a meeting with our VFF Project Officer, who drew up an action plan and that was it. We flew through it in less than a month, because we loved it that much!


The first thing I did was choose my VFF champions, and was very fortunate as I have three members of staff who were ideal. You need your champions to want to be involved in the project, and to be passionate about it. I was lucky that my champions were so keen to do it – not because I was telling them to do it, but because they believed in it. Each had connections to the military through family, so the VFF meant something special to them. They’re so proud that we care for veterans in our home, so they just ran with it.


We did have a lot of help from the team at the VFF. I think we must have been their absolute worst client, because I was on the phone or sending emails literally every single day! But they were absolutely outstanding. They provided us with all the help and support we needed.


We have 61 rooms in this home and currently care for seven veterans. We’ve already seen so many benefits from the VFF. I think there’s definitely been increased recognition that we are respecting and valuing our veterans, and we’re increasing our knowledge and expertise in how to support them. We’re improving the care we provide residents. We’re connecting with them on a deeper level and have a deeper understanding of their past, which in turn improves their wellbeing and mental health. I think with the VFF we’ve improved their outcomes and their experiences living in our care home.


‘Everyone we’ve met has been so generous’


And we’ve made contact with so many wonderful military groups and organisations. We have Help for Heroes befriending volunteers coming in to chat to residents, and we will soon start attending coffee mornings at the nearby Royal British Legion branch. Soldiers are coming into the home to give talks, which the residents are really enjoying. Everyone we’ve met has been so generous, not only with their time, but with what they can offer us. It’s just been amazing really.


We’re a new care home, only two years old, and the VFF has opened us up to the local community. It got us speaking to military people and groups that we hadn’t gone to before and didn’t know, and who didn’t know us. We are rated Outstanding by the CQC, and when these groups come to our home as part of the VFF, they see how nice it is, how passionate the staff are, and they tell other people. And as a result our occupancy shot up!


It also brings benefits to the entire home. When a soldier comes in to give a talk, it’s enjoyed by everyone. All the residents like having visitors, so it’s not just the veterans that are benefitting, it’s everyone.


‘Very proud’


I feel a sense of pride that we are a VFF approved home. It’s a recognised benchmark of our quality, an acknowledgment of an achievement. I’m not aware of any other homes in the East Riding of Yorkshire that has done this, and that’s something I’m very proud of.


I would 100% recommend the VFF to other care homes, I’m so glad we did it. It’s not a lot for staff to take on board. It hasn’t changed their job in any way, shape or form. They’ve not had to take on anything extra, but it’s just given them more awareness, and the ability to connect with people in a way which will increase their wellbeing.


Any care homes interested in receiving more information about the VFF can visit, email or call 07425 326070.