Wigan Borough has a large population of Armed Service Leavers; 22,000 men and women have returned to the borough after service. This is a large population in comparison to other areas of Lancashire and Greater Manchester outside of Preston.
In response to this, the Local Authority recognised the need to support the Armed Forces Community by commissioning the HQ.
The Wigan Armed Forces HQ officially opened on Saturday 10th November 2018. Veteran Simon Weston CBE was delighted to cut the ribbon and along with the Mayor and Leader of Wigan Council was local veteran Andy Reid who is a triple amputee from the Afghan conflict. Since opening, the HQ has supported circa 400 veterans and families into successful outcomes.
As a result of the Council’s commitment and establishment of the Armed Forces HQ (Hub), Wigan now has an excellent reputation both locally, across GM and the North West for its provision of support to the Armed Forces community. By working as a partnership in conjunction with community groups and National Charities, the Armed Forces population of the Borough is now actively sought out as an identifiable cohort of residents that require additional support. This provision will continue to inform wider work across Greater Manchester and has already formed the basis of a regional offer to support the Armed Forces community, both in terms of grouping individuals by need and instilling a determination to work in partnership and share information and best practice safely.
It is also raising significant awareness of the Armed Forces Covenant and busted a number of myths surrounding its implementation. As a result, the message is clearly out that supporting the Armed Forces community is not about giving residents advantage, but in addition to recognising service, the Covenant is about addressing disadvantage due to service.
We now have Armed Forces Champions within the LA Housing department whose support has been amazing considering constraints with supply. We have supported 35 veterans into Council Housing and other affordable housing across the borough.
We also have plans to provide our own social housing stock (HMO’s) which will enable us to accommodate and provide wrap around support to those with complex needs.
The veteran pictured above with members of the Wigan Council housing team, Councillor Morgan and John Harker was delighted to receive support into housing for his family after becoming homeless through no fault of his own.
Just one of our success stories, Anthony Young age 55, veteran, 6 years in the Queen’s Regiment. Anthony left the Army and went into private security and close protection working all over the world and the middle east.
He was working in Manchester as a Security Operations Manager when he had a heart attack followed by a stroke which left him unable to work, had difficulty speaking and lost the use of his left arm. For him, his life was over, and he tried to take his own life.
We picked him up in Atherleigh Hospital, supported him through his ordeal, got him a council bungalow, support dog and furniture. He is now well again, has a new purpose in life and is looking to get back into work soon.
During a visit to Wigan, Prince Charles had the opportunity to hear all about our work at the Council in support of veterans and all about the AFHQ.
He was very impressed with the work we are doing in Wigan for the Armed Forces Community.
Very early on from establishing the AFHQ we became acutely aware that lots of veterans that approach for support require some sort of immediate assistance. Statutory services and national charities all have a time delay from initial contact to tangible support being provided so we set up the fund in order to have readily available funding for initial support until other services could be provided.
We organised several small events and collection boxes, but we needed a larger injection of cash, so we decided to organise a corporate charity boxing evening which raised circa £17,000. This is having a huge impact on our immediate support for veterans at the coalface.
England and Scotland National Teams attended, as well as Army Boxers for the event and we made it a military theme. The event was supported by over 30 local businesses and pictured above is veteran Andy Reid who lost 3 limbs in Afghanistan and professional Boxer Anthony Crolla. The event was very well received, and we plan to hold this event again in 2021.
The creation of the HQ is a tangible legacy for Wigan, attracting the attention of the Military and National Military Charities. Now fully operational and achieving amazing results we are now focusing heavily on sustainability. We are building a strategy and are confident that with the right support we can achieve long term sustainability.