Support centre for military families opens at old Norwich barracks

Former soldier, Luke Woodley from Costessey, who developed PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and

Former soldier, Luke Woodley from Costessey, who developed PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and is now helping others with the condition. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2015

Thousands of armed forces veterans and their families are to be given a vital lifeline, with the opening of a new support centre at a former Norwich barracks.

In the first project of its kind in the UK, all of the region's military charities will be represented under one roof to provide help with issues such as mental health, housing and jobs.

The Britannia Veterans' Centre, in Britannia Road, will be opened tomorrow and has been hailed as 'a game-changer for Norfolk'. It is next to Norwich Prison on the former Britannia Barracks site, which was the home of the Royal Norfolk Regiment.

Veterans Norfolk chairman Group Captain Stewart Blackburn said the venue would provide a much-needed link between the military charities and the people they serve.

He said: 'Veterans, service personnel and their families will be able to meet with like-minded people and relax.

'Where necessary the centre will provide a link to the many excellent service providers across the county of Norfolk.'

Of the estimated 40,000 veterans and family members in the region, only a tiny proportion use the services available to them.

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Among the charities to be represented at the centre will be The Walnut Tree Project, which was set up by army veteran Luke Woodley, from Costessey, to help sufferers of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Mr Woodley, who developed PTSD after serving in Bosnia in 1993, said the centre would plug a gap in services for veterans.

He said: 'It's desperately hard to track down the right help when you have mental issues.

'This new centre is a game-changer for Norfolk.

'It is fantastic to be able go somewhere which isn't a website and where there is a 'holistic wrap' around the person.'

HMP Nowich has given permission for the three-storey Victorian barracks, just outside the prison's walls to be used as a support centre and each of the region's military charities will be represented there,

Head of Residence and Services at HMP Norwich Steve Garvie said of the new centre: 'This is the home of the Norfolk Regiment, so everyone locally who has been involved in the First World War and Second World War will have passed through here.

'It will serve all veterans. We know that the person who is lonely is just as important as the man who has lost his leg.'

Colin Back, from the charity Walking With The Wounded, said: 'To have the main charities collated under one roof can only be good for the veterans of Norfolk.

'With everyone under one roof, solutions can be found in minutes rather than days.'

Other groups to be represented at the centre include SSAFA, the Royal Norfolk Regiment, limbless veterans' charity BLESMA and the Royal Naval Association and PTSD charity Stand Easy.

For more information about the new support centre call 01603 611708.

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