Martin Baker Caseworker 2007 to 2013 & Branch Secretary. London South East Branch. The day after I retired I picked up an abandoned newspaper in a train and saw a SSAFA advert. Within weeks I had been inducted and mentored through a couple of cases before being let loose on an unsuspecting public. Other than a dear Dad who was a sergeant and had a habit of issuing Daily Orders, I had no Service experience. However, born in ’45, I was part of the generation that grew up with family that had served and I had acquired a great deal of respect for them and their comrades. Volunteering for SSAFA seemed a natural fit and a way of acknowledging their commitments. Early cases were fraught with unexpected frustrations, some disappointment but a great deal of enjoyment and a sense of satisfaction. As the learning curve flattened, the frustrations reduced and the rewards became many. During training, I had been introduced to the Form A and had been advised that it should take no longer than forty minutes to an hour to complete. I found myself ensconced in people’s front rooms for very much longer than that; sometimes an afternoon slipped pleasurably by. Enquires for Eligibility brought forth pay books, photographs, reminiscence and stories that had been bottled up for years. Questions about Civilian life revealed lifetimes of hard work, family triumphs and tragedies and, inevitably, the declines in health and fortunes that brought us together poring over the Form A. In resolving some of those earlier frustrations I began to learn that other agencies, sometimes blighted by procedure, are, none the less, very willing to help a SSAFA client. Nothing illustrated this better for me than the case of the elderly, immobile, widow, sorely tried by a deteriorating heart condition and living in a listed Alms house with a spiral staircase separating her from her living and sleeping accommodation. The obvious answer was a move to more suitable accommodation. However, our client, we’ll call her Ann, had her whole life in that Alms House community and the adjacent Church. “Stair lift”, I hear you cry. Listed building? Spiral staircase? Really? Standard Stair Lift manufacturers cried off but recommended a company based in Germany specialising in radiused lifts. The Local Authority Conservation Surveyor was approached about the Listing issue and initially said no; until I introduced him to the lovely Ann. Then he found a “way”. The German company sent a representative and we hit another problem. Ann was a large lady and her weight was a concern. The company boosted the design and eight weeks after I met her, Ann was riding the rails. Three years later Ann died and her daughter sent her thanks and a moving tribute to our efforts; reporting how happy Ann had been to stay in her home. I sent a copy to all the participants; it was very much a team effort. I don’t think I ever met a Client that wasn’t deserving of SSAFA help and know that they were appreciative of the assistance they received. Between 2007 and 2013 I dealt with seventy cases and obtained over £130k worth of funding for clients; much of it from civilian charities. But more, much more than all that I got a sense of achievement and purpose and a deal of satisfaction you couldn’t buy. So, what happened in 2013? Well, I’d always wanted to write a book. I’d started several drafts and had a number of ideas and they all began to come together and the Writing took over. Well, the book is finished and published and I’m back as a Caseworker, refreshing my memories with the joys of CMS and eagerly contemplating my next case. I’m even thinking of going digital and taking the tablet along with me. It depends how much I’m enjoying the interview. I’m not going to miss out on a good story, tea and biscuits just because there’s no signal! And the book? It’s called “Backtracking” and is “An explosion of a Thriller; unforgettable characters fighting to survive in a criminal world of lost innocence, drugs and police corruption in 1990s gangland Gunchester.” It’s on Amazon.