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New Veterans Drop-In Support Centre

A new Veterans’ Drop-In Support Centre to help ex-services personnel has been opened in Bolton, by Cobseo member the Bolton Guild of Help, at the Bridge Church Conference Centre on Bradford Street in the town.

The volunteer run service will be open fortnightly on Thursdays between midday and 2pm starting on the 7 October with volunteer advisers available informally every other week from 10.30 until 12.30 commencing on the 14 October. It is hoped to move to full weekly sessions from January. Light refreshments’ will be available at very competitive prices.

Apart from being a welcoming place for people to meet and socialise, the new service will assist with mental health issues (PTSD), homelessness, benefits advice, debt management, job searching, the provision of essential items and reducing social isolation.

Bolton has an estimated 20,000 people with a military connection, many of them ex-national servicemen now in their 70s, 80s and 90s.

At the official launch, the Mayor of Bolton, Cllr Linda Thomas, praised the project and said “this is much needed here.”

With the support of the Armed Forces Covenant Fund the Guild set up its Veterans Shall Not Be Forgotten programme almost three years ago and since then has helped support local vets and their families with more than £105,000 worth of aid.

The Guild was formed in 1905 and it is very likely that it supported soldiers returned from the Boer Wars. It administers a variety of grants and legacies generally and works with SSAFA The Armed Forces Charity, military benevolent funds and the Royal British Legion in order to provide significant levels of support to our veterans and their families.

As Guild Trustee Richard Davies stated

“It is now almost 80 years since the end of World War Two. With every passing year the number of people who served in that conflict is becoming fewer and fewer.

“But, we are still seeing people who have served across the world including the Falklands, both Gulf Wars and Afghanistan.

“Many of these are relatively young people and their problems are many and, quite often, very complex.”

The drop-in centre will help men like Ken, now 67, who served in the Parachute Regiment and did five tours in Northern Ireland.

He became homeless and lived in his car when anger regularly erupted into violence, forcing him from his home and estranging him from his family.

“I can’t talk about the things I saw in Northern Ireland,” he said, “but sounds and smells still trigger memories which affect me.”

Ken has been helped by CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), a local veterans’ centre and The Guild of Help. Through the latter two, he now has a furnished sheltered bungalow “and I’m getting there.”

He added:

“This new drop-in centre will definitely help many people. “It really is a way back.”

For more information please contact the Guild on 01204 524858 Monday to Wednesday between 9.30am and 2.30pm. Or by e-mailing Richard Davies at asshawes3@sky.com

Also see www.boltonguildofhelp.org.uk

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