ALMOST £80,000 in funding will go towards helping hundreds of people return to independent life in their own homes after hospital treatment, Herefordshire Freemasons has said.

Local military veterans and older people who are frail or coping with serious medical conditions will be helped by the grant, which will fund a new welfare officer at the Defence Medical Welfare Service (DMWS).

Herefordshire Freemasons said there will be a focus on those who are socially isolated, as an estimated 10 per cent of Herefordshire's 45,000 residents over the age of 65 are veterans.

Ashley Winter, the local welfare officer for DMWS, is currently dealing with 49 cases in Herefordshire and say he ensures they are able live as normal a life as possible.

The grant from Herefordshire Freemasons comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation, which is funded by Freemasons, their families and friends, from across England and Wales.

Paul Gaffney, DMWS chief executive said: "We're very grateful to Herefordshire Freemasons for their generous grant. Thanks to them we'll be able to help more military veterans and the over-65s facing social isolation issues, to live independently in their own homes.

"Providing community connections for those in need gives a tremendous lift to their lives. Our vital service reduces unnecessary 'bed blocking' in hospitals, removing stress to the person and eases direct pressure on the NHS."

Michael Holland from Herefordshire Freemason, said: "I'm very pleased we've been able to help the DMWS, who do outstanding work backing our veterans. Far too many of them are stuck in hospital because they don't have proper support to safely return to their own homes or are lonely and isolated.

By helping to fund Ashley Winter as a local welfare officer, the quality of life of many of our veterans and their families will be greatly improved."

Since the Second World War, DMWS has supported the armed forces community, aiding physical and mental health recovery through their professional welfare services.