Welfare to Wellbeing model finds US support
An American academic, who recently became the latest in a succession of international experts to visit Veterans Aid, hailed the charity’s model as logical, economical and more effective than the ‘business-as-usual’ provisions found elsewhere.
After visiting Veterans Aid in London, American academic Dr Melissa Landers-Potts, who recently co-authored a paper on adolescents in military families in Journal of Child and Family Studies, offered to share her thoughts:
“As a faculty member teaching courses in Human Development and Family Science at the University of Georgia in the southern United States, and leading a London study abroad program, I was keen to explore, with my students, differences and similarities in the consumption of goods and social services for various groups of individuals and families between the two countries.
“Through a mutual colleague, Dr Jay Mancini, I was introduced some years ago to the collaborative work that he and Dr Hugh Milroy had done to better understand the situation of homeless veterans in London and the needs that exist. A date was set for him to talk with my students and I about the work he does at Veteran's Aid and we duly travelled to the charity’s headquarters in Victoria Square. Dr Milroy generously spent nearly two hours with us and in the process taught us about the unconventional and profoundly effective work that he and his group are doing.
“The model for service provision at Veteran's Aid differs from traditional approaches to helping the homeless that, as he pointed out to us, have been used since the Victorian Era and are often based on pity and charity. While these motivations for action may sound quite normal and not altogether offensive, Dr. Milroy showed us, through many of the real-life anecdotes he has encountered in his work, how and why the traditional model of service delivery is harmful and dis-empowers those it is meant to assist.
“His is a model (Welfare to Wellbeing©) that recognises the complex ecosystem that encircles every human being and he pointed out that there is no way to effectively provide assistance to a homeless person until their particular ecosystem is well understood. Previous service models have, by contrast, required the person to seek services within a stiff, inflexible provision system with limited avenues of assistance.
“Additionally, charitable organisations have presumed to know what the homeless person needs. By contrast, the model used at Veteran's Aid individually tailors services to the particular requirements of the person in order for them to function well. This is, in part, a key to its success.
“Veteran's Aid also offers respect to those who are homeless by allowing them autonomy and as much decision-making capacity as possible in choosing the services that they receive. This sends an entirely different message than the traditional model of the homeless person receiving 'charity' from others, such as used clothes, an already-cooked meal, or a ride to a location - rather than money to purchase his/her own clothes and food, and freedom to use public transportation, which all allow for much greater autonomy and a 'normalising' of their life. In short, the Veteran's Aid model is quite logical and it has also been shown to be economical and more effective than the 'business-as-usual' model of government service provision and charity.”
A number of Dr Landers-Potts’ students also offered their take on the VA model. Davis, a high school student stated "Before learning about Veterans Aid, I believed that a vast amount of veterans have PTSD and a lot of information that I have been reading in the news are actually false and overly exaggerated. It is also incredibly amazing that the organisation focuses on individual needs and choices of a person instead of the group overall. This seems to help the veterans in need greatly, which then allows them to become more successful in life."
Dr Landers- Potts Senior is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Human Development and Family Science (FACS) at the University of Georgia. She was first introduced to Dr Milroy’s Welfare to Wellbeing© model in Professor Jay Mancini’s Pathways to Human Development which featured a chapter by Dr Milroy. During his former military career Dr Milroy was senior welfare specialist for the Royal Air Force worldwide.