The Royal British Legion (RBL) is a national charity which supports members of the Royal Navy, British Army, Royal Air Force, veterans and their families. Providing vital support to serving and ex-serving personnel, their dedication and work led them to receiving their Defence Employer Recognition Scheme Gold Award in 2022.
One of the ways they provide support for veterans and their families is through the provision of a number of RBL run care homes across the country.
We caught up with Shelley Fardon, Events and Bookings Co-ordinator at the Community Hub located at Galanos House, at the launch of their Poppy Appeal in November (which also featured a live performance from Armed Forces Covenant signatories, the Orchestra of the Swan).
Galanos House is an RBL Care Home located in Warwickshire. We were keen to ask what the home and its thriving onsite hub means to veterans and Warwickshire residents, and how the RBL is helping to lead on a new veteran friendly accreditation.
Galanos House is a care home exclusively for members of the Armed Forces community – is it the only one in Warwickshire, or even the Midlands?
Galanos House is one of six British Legion Care homes in the country, and the only one in the Midlands. It is the largest, with 101 bedrooms and has recently been awarded the new Veteran Friendly Framework Accreditation (VFF). Galanos House is also rated outstanding by the CQC.
How long has Galanos House been open – can you provide some background about the home and how it started?
Galanos House has been open for over 20 years. In the late 1950s, Mr Cristos Galanos, a wealthy Greek merchant left a third of his estate to RBL, which led to the construction of Galanos House to provide additional accommodation. Originally built in Long Itchington, Warwickshire, Galanos House moved to the Southam site in September 2002.
How many residents live at Galanos House?
We currently have 96 residents, throughout residential, nursing and our specialist dementia home. All residents are either ex-serving or spouses of ex-serving personnel.
Do your residents find a good sense of camaraderie living with other veterans?
Yes, the residents have a great sense of camaraderie and form life-long friendships. Our residents dine together, spend evenings in our in-house bar, go on outings, form friendships, and become a really important part of each other’s lives.
Do residents have options to take part in any military themed events or activities?
Yes, we mark all the military days throughout the year, such as D-day, VE Day, VJ Day and Armistice Day, either with a formal service or an afternoon of dancing and musical entertainment with wartime favourites.
Some of our residents also visit the Armed Forces Veterans Breakfast Club (AFVBC) which is held in the Hub on the last Saturday and Wednesday of each month, which gives them the opportunity to socialise with other serving and ex-serving personnel and share their experiences and stories. We also take annual trips to the NMA, RBL’s Lloyds and City of London Branch, Remembrance service at the Royal Albert Hall and are often invited to important events such as the ‘Not forgotten society’s garden party’ at Buckingham Palace and the 75th anniversary of the D-day landings in Normandy.
How long has the Community Hub been open – what kind of services does it provide?
The Community Hub and Cafe has been open since May 2022 and offers a range of community events and groups.
The Hub offers regular monthly events, such as AFVBC sessions, Silver Sundays, Chatty Café Table, Warm Hub, Dementia Café, Sporting Memories and Nosh and Natter sessions. The Blind Veterans UK join us every month and enjoy the use of the café and facilities.
Since opening, we have also hosted several health and well-being events such as men’s health talks, menopause support and advice evenings and fundraising events such as bingo, curry and quiz nights.
Galanos House has also been the chosen charity of the Mayor of Southam for the last two years, which has given us the opportunity to host a civic dinner and other prestigious events.
The Community Hub also boasts the addition of six power assisted exercise machines which are used by the public and residents. Suitable for both men and women, the benefits include improved general fitness, muscle toning, better circulation, improved posture and also assists weight loss.
The Café offers a selection of homemade food at an affordable price with daily specials, Sunday roasts, fishy Fridays and afternoon teas. All our cakes are homemade, and we offer barista style coffees. We’re also open 7 days a week from 9-5pm including bank holidays.
Is the Community Hub open to the wider community, and not just residents?
Yes, the Community Hub is open to the wider community, and we actively reach out locally and throughout Warwickshire. We welcome everyone!
The hub also provides an open door for veterans in the community and is here to provide help and support through the RBL.
How important is Galanos House and the Community Hub to Warwickshire residents?
It is hugely important for many reasons. As an employer, we offer approx. 250 jobs in all areas, from catering, admin, housekeeping and nursing, to maintenance and wellbeing.
As footfall in the town centre has gradually declined, the hub has become the ‘go to’ place for many of the local residents on a regular basis. The environment is modern, warm, and welcoming which is really important for our visitors.
Galanos House is a flagship home and has an excellent reputation locally, with lots of support. We also have good links with the local GP surgeries, primary and secondary schools, children’s groups, and other Armed Forces/veteran contacts across Warwickshire. During our short time, the hub has become an integral part of the community.
We also have a meeting room, therapy room and hall which are available to hire and are ideal private functions and independent businesses (hire is free of charge for the Armed Forces community).
Does Warwickshire have a large veteran population?
Figures from the Office for National Statistics showed there were 3,776 veterans living in Warwick in March 2021 – around 1,550 (41%) of whom were over the age of 80. The census shows 3.8% of people in England and Wales aged 16 and over had served in the Armed Forces, or 1.9 million people. Warwickshire is reflective of these figures with around a 4% veteran population.
I understand that the RBL are leading on a veteran accreditation concept for care homes – can you tell us more about what this involves, and why you feel it is important?
The Veteran Friendly Framework was designed to support care providers in identifying veterans and their wellbeing needs, addressing social isolation and providing signposting to statutory and charitable services.
Currently it is estimated that there are about 25,000 veterans living in care homes but there are only 20 homes that are veteran specific. We feel that it is really important that veterans living in care homes are identified, enabling staff in those home to offer the appropriate care and support. By connecting veterans, residents can form friendships and increase social interaction because of their service. Creating opportunities for that very special camaraderie.
Find out more about the veteran community and how our organisation also works to support veterans in our region. Learn more about the Armed Forces Covenant and how your organisation can support the wider forces community.