Wigan Borough’s pioneering Armed Forces HQ has been given the seal of approval from a royal representative.
Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant of Greater Manchester, Sir Warren Smith, visited the hub after hearing about the life-changing work key workers and volunteers deliver on a daily basis.
He was welcomed by council leader, Coun David Molyneux and chief executive, Alison McKenzie-Folan, alongside the managing director of the HQ.
Sir Warren, who is the Queen’s personal representative in the city-region, was then given a tour of the facility before hearing powerful stories from local veterans.
Coun David Molyneux, leader of the council said: “On behalf of the borough, we are honoured that the Lord Lieutenant asked if he could visit the HQ.
“We know that since opening 14 months ago the facility has delivered invaluable support to the armed forces community and it is fantastic that the staff and volunteers are receiving the recognition they deserve.”
Wigan Borough Armed Forces HQ was opened by Simon Weston CBE in November 2018 and since then, the facility has supported more than 200 members of the armed forces community.
Working closely with the council, HQ staff have helped veterans and serving personnel to access housing, seek financial guidance and receive emotional and mental health support.
Coun Molyneux added: “Thanks to the commitment demonstrated by staff and the charities operating from the hub, we have been able to not only change lives but to save lives too.
“We are humbled that the Lord Lieutenant has acknowledged the importance of this facility in our borough and region and we look forward to another year of working with our partners and speaking with the armed forces community so they can continue to live full, healthy lives.”
Greater Manchester’s Lord Lieutenant, Sir Warren Smith, is a retired businessman who, as The Queen’s personal representative, acts as liaison with the armed services and their associated cadet forces.
Speaking during the tour, he said: “The support this facility offers the armed forces community is invaluable and I’m privileged to have met the fantastic employees, volunteers and veterans who truly make a difference to people’s lives
“It is a shining example to every other local authority and shows the huge commitment that Wigan Council has made.”
The HQ is managed by Wigan Borough Armed Forces HQ CIC in partnership with Healthier Heroes CIC and provides a base for other charities including the Royal British Legion.
The Wigan Sea Cadets also operate and train from the HQ, making it the first facility in the region which combines armed forces support with cadet groups.
Laura Ingham, managing director of Healthier Heroes and the HQ, said: “We work tirelessly and continuously with the council and armed forces charities to ensure we can deliver effective and tailored support to a very specific group of the community.
“We have seen how this facility can transform a person’s mindset and life. The HQ isn’t just a place to find support, it’s a social setting. It’s somewhere where the borough’s young cadets can come together and is a safe place for like-minded people to meet and discuss their experiences.
“It’s been amazing to have the Lord Lieutenant with us today – he was very impressed with our work and enjoyed speaking with local veterans.”
Last year, Wigan Council was awarded the Armed Forces Covenant Employer Recognition silver award from the Ministry of Defence for its commitment to supporting the armed forces community.
For more information about the HQ and its services, follow Wigan Borough Armed Forces HQ on Facebook.