Bolton and the North West has a strong history for recruitment to the Armed Forces and we know there is a strong military presence in the area, resulting in Bolton having the second largest number of veterans & their families across Greater Manchester. Bolton Armed Forces 4 Veterans operates a drop-in centre to ensure that veterans & their families don’t slip under the radar in terms of the additional support they need. We effectively target our support for them alongside other local partners in Health, Housing, and Employment & Education.
In Bolton we have a very strong voluntary sector which has allowed us to develop as a centre, run entirely by volunteers supported. The volunteers at the centre are all ex-Forces themselves as our experience tells us that individual veterans find it easier to confide in and trust someone who is ex-forces themselves.
Our volunteers provide help, advice, counselling & employment training for veterans throughout the Bolton area. There isn’t currently a similar facility available in Bolton and our town centre location lends itself well to becoming a key point of contact for Veterans. We strive to improve mental wellbeing & provide a local grassroots gateway for individuals seeking support. We have already taken steps to develop pathways to things such as healthcare, employers, education, welfare, housing and leisure activities.
In the last three years, Bolton Armed Forces 4 Veterans has been inundated for requests for help & we are overwhelmed. After chatting to our current service users, their families and our community partners who refer vulnerable people to us, we realise that we need to expand our provision to veterans to meet this need. Through talking to our community partners, we have identified conflict resolution & bereavement counselling as a key area for training needs, along with courses in first aid, health & safety & good governance.
The centre brings people together and builds strong relationships in and across the North west. After chatting to the families of some of our Veterans and after discussions with Army North West, we were asked to bring in sessional expert workers to support counselling, therapy, and crucially to train our own volunteers to make it sustainable. We were also asked to supplement this with a range of enrichment activities that our current service users have requested, including visits to the National Arboretum in Staffordshire and outdoor activities linked to recovery & rehabilitation, essentially talking & walking therapy for our service users. These activities are also endorsed by our Armed Forces partners who have told us the sort of activities that would help the most. Our hope is that after talking to our current users, future and current users will become volunteers themselves through this programme and continue to lead activities in the future.
This means that we can enable more Veterans and their families to fulfill their potential by working to address issues at the earliest possible stage.
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