Shadow Defence Secretary visits Burnley veterans' charity

Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey MP visited award winning Burnley veterans charity Healthier Heroes CIC alongside Burnley Council leader Afrasiab Anwar on Friday.

The pair were shown around the centre by managing director and Army veteran Andrew Powell, met the staff and volunteers at the charity and spoke to the veterans currently being housed and supported by Healthier Heroes.

The charity, which opened in 2018, houses and supports former service personnel in Burnley and surrounding towns.

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As part of the visit, Mr Healey and Coun. Anwar heard from veterans being supported at the charity about the challenges they’ve faced when transitioning back to civilian life after leaving the Armed Forces, such as drug and alcohol problems, involvement in the criminal justice system and breakdown in relationships.

Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey MP visited award winning Burnley veterans charity Healthier Heroes CIC

Mr Healey said: “Labour is deeply proud of our Armed Forces and veterans for the work they’ve done and continue to do, defending and protecting the country.

"Most veterans leave the Forces highly skilled and equipped for civilian life, but it is our moral duty to ensure those who need help get proper support. Healthier Heroes is an excellent model of this support to the rest of the country.

"Labour will also continue to argue for the Armed Forces Covenant to be fully incorporated into law so the interests of forces communities are protected."

The senior politician went on to speak about how Labour has led the arguments, supported by charities such as the Royal British Legion, in Parliament to the Armed Forces Bill to ensure central Government are responsible for delivering the Armed Forces Covenant. The Covenant is a promise by the nation to ensure those who serve or who have served in the armed forces, and their families, are treated fairly.

The new Armed Forces Act 2021 forces local government and other local public bodies to have “due regard” to the Covenant but exempts central government. Labour backed cross-party amendments to fix this, but the Government whipped Tory MPs to vote them down, including Burnley MP Antony Higginbotham.

According to census data, over 2.44% (1,359 veterans) of the working age population in Burnley are veterans. This is a higher proportion of working age veterans than the North West region.

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Healthier Heroes Managing Director Andrew Powell said: “Healthier heroes' staff and residents were happy to welcome Rt Hon John Healy MP and the leader of the council Afrasiab Anwar to Bancroft house on Friday. The visit went very well as he now appreciates the importance and the need for the service Healthier heroes provides to veterans and their families across Lancashire.

"The residents spoke about their journey so far and the help and support they have been given, which is going to help them re integrate into their communities on again whilst also knowing they have continued outreach support from the staff.”