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HRH The Countess of Wessex opens new facility in Llandudno supporting blind and limbless veterans learning vital “life skills”

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A new facility supporting veterans who have lost their sight, limbs, or both, has been opened by Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex GCVO at a military charity’s training and rehabilitation centre in Llandudno, North Wales.

Built in partnership between Blind Veterans UK and Blesma, The Limbless Veterans, this new “Life Skills” building will provide a rehabilitation environment to support essential life skills for independent living. The facility will support veterans who have lost their sight, limbs, or both, with a particular focus on supporting those who may be at risk of becoming homeless.

This was HRH The Countess of Wessex’s first act as the new patron of Blind Veterans UK, the national charity for vision-impaired ex-Service men and women. HRH became the military charity’s patron after Her Majesty The Queen stepped down as patron of a number of charities and organisations at the end of last year.

The building has been built after a £1.25 million grant received from the Veterans Accommodation Fund as well as through the generous donations of several other groups and individuals.

Chief Executive of Blind Veterans UK, Major General (Rtd) Nick Caplin CB, said: “This fantastic new building, and our Rehabilitation Team, will offer specialist bespoke life skills programmes which focus on mental wellbeing, career options, communication skills and health and fitness promotion.

“It is an honour for all of us in the Blind Veterans UK family to welcome Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex as our Patron.”

PMP_8268All of the accommodation has been designed to integrate seamless adaptations to support physical disability whilst providing a realistic home environment. The veterans are able to stay in the accommodation for short and long stays of up to six months. This provides an opportunity to comprehensively reassess their needs, make relevant adjustments, and make recommendations for ongoing community interventions.

Chief Executive of Blesma, The Limbless Veterans, Barry Le Grys MBE, said: “This exciting project will provide new opportunities for Blesma Members, alongside their Blind Veterans UK colleagues, to lead independent and fulfilling lives.”

As well as opening the new building at the Blind Veterans UK training and rehabilitation centre, HRH The Countess of Wessex also got to see first-hand some of the other services the charity offers to veterans who have lost their sight.

These included visiting the charity’s Art and Craft studio where blind veterans learn new skills to be able to produce paintings, wood works and textiles. Some of these veterans are learning these skills, and therefore a new hobby, for the first time. Others, like Bill Mooney, have re-learned old skills and adapted new techniques to continue to be able to carry on a hobby he never thought possible when he lost his sight.

Bill, 74 and from County Durham, regularly visits the Blind Veterans UK centre in Llandudno after losing his sight due to retinal detachment. He had been a wood turner since 1959 but stopped when he lost his sight. He has since been trained by Blind Veterans UK staff to use a lathe again and continues to be an extremely talented Master Craftsman.  He presented HRH The Countess of Wessex with a handmade pen that he turned himself as well as three other pens for Her Royal Highness’s family.

Blind Veterans UK is the national charity for blind and vision-impaired ex-Service men and women, providing vital practical and emotional support to help veterans discover life beyond sight loss. The charity estimates that there are currently 59,000 blind veterans that would be eligible to access its specialist support, most of whom are not currently aware of it.

If you, or someone you know, served in the Armed Forces or did National Service and are now battling severe sight loss, find out how Blind Veterans UK could help by calling 0800 389 7979 or visiting noonealone.org.uk.

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For all media enquiries please contact: Felix Arbenz-Caines, PR Assistant, Blind Veterans UK, 12 – 14 Harcourt Street, London, W1H 4HD, E: Felix.arbenz-caines@blindveterans.org.uk, T: 020 7616 7941

Notes to Editors

The “Life Skills” Building
The need for the building and programme was demonstrated after the Blind Veterans UK commissioned King’s Centre for Military Health research to examine mental health and social well-being of, and provision of care and support to, younger ex-Service men and women with a vision-impairment.

The report concluded that younger ex-Service personnel struggled not only with how to adjust to their sight loss, but also how to cope with other losses, such as loss of employment and independence.

In addition, worries about the future were centred on being able to look after their family financially and being able to provide a family home. These concerns had led to 50 per cent of younger veterans considering suicide and 15 per cent making a non-fatal suicide attempt.

The King’s Report recommended that blind veterans, particularly those with limb loss, would benefit from more tailored support which would include counselling, career advice and financial planning.

Blind Veterans UK
Blind Veterans UK is a national charity that believes that no-one who has served our country should have to battle blindness alone. Founded in 1915, the charity provides blind and vision impaired ex-Service men and women with lifelong support including welfare support, rehabilitation, training, residential and respite care.

Find out more at: blindveterans.org.uk, follow us on Facebook at: facebook.com/blindveteransuk and on Twitter at: twitter.com/blindveterans.

We are Blind Veterans UK the national charity for vision-impaired ex-Service men and women. To learn more about us please visit our website at: http://www.blindveterans.org.uk or call us on 0300 111 2233. Patron: Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex GCVO. A company Limited by guarantee No. 189648 Registered Charity No. 216227 (England & Wales) and SC039411 (Scotland) Registered in England at 12-14 Harcourt Street, London W1H 4HD The information in this communication and any attachments is confidential and is intended solely for the addressee. Access, copying or re-use of information in it by anyone else is unauthorised. Any views or opinions presented are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Blind Veterans UK or any of its affiliates. If you are not the intended recipient please contact Blind Veterans UK, London, UK, tel:+44 (020) 7723 5021, fax:+44 (020) 7262 6199 or send an email to: administrator@blindveterans.org.uk.

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