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Manchester Evening News
Manchester Evening News
George Lythgoe

Ex-army men on the streets and out of work finally given a voice

Army veterans struggling to find work and left homeless are finally getting a voice in the community thanks to the help of a Manchester charity and a newly formed union. Veterans into Logistics helps ex-servicemen get into higher paid jobs as HGV drivers by getting them qualifications after serving their time.

They have recently helped one of their contacts get into work through this scheme - Reece Jackson. Reece was going from job to job in a bid just to get by but says this time ‘it feels different'.

The former infantryman has secured employment with Muller in Trafford Park, pending the completion of his driving assessment, after being supported by Darren Wright’s team at VIL.

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“Muller will develop me so that I can get my Class 1 qualification, I already have my Class 2 for HGVs,” the Manchester native said. “They are a lot like the military vehicles but when you come out you need experience of driving them on the roads.

“I was looking for work for a few months. There is not a lot of support for vets out there and we need to raise awareness of this.

“It feels better with this step now because VIL can empathise with you and you can relate to them. You feel more accepted with them.

“It is a good thing for vets to know there is someone there for them.”

This came about after the Ministry of Defence’s Air Commodore visited local veterans’ charity at the Muller Dairies site in Manchester recently, to see how the charity mentors and trains veterans into new careers as HGV drivers upon leaving the military. Air Commodore David Tait MBE, Head of Training, Education, Skills, Recruiting and Resettlement was invited by Veterans into Logistics CEO and Former Airborne Gunner, Darren Wright.


He was introduced to two veterans who the charity is currently supporting, David Ashcroft and Reece, to hear first-hand how Veterans into Logistics is making a difference to their lives. The charity has secured a place in ex-military supported accommodation for David, where he will be offered support to rebuild his life and, when he is ready, Veterans into Logistics will offer him HGV driving training.

Darren Wright, founder of VIL, said: “We would like to thank the Air Commodore for coming to visit us and meeting veterans currently undergoing our training. Our mission is to reduce unemployment and homelessness amongst the ex-military community.

“Once veterans have their licence, we can support them into employment, providing structure, stability and financial security.”

However, a Wigan councillor and ex-Queen’s Guard, James Paul Watson, believes these charities burden too much responsibility for veterans - he wants to see change. That is why established the Ex-Forces Union, a non-profit organisation, that will hopefully change how we treat our veterans in the UK.

“After all, it wasn't the charities who sent our troops to war so why are they responsible for the aftercare,” Coun Watson said. “It is the responsibility of local and national government but within our culture, we have allowed the charitable sector to burden this responsibility which is fundamentally wrong.”

James Watson out on operation in Iraq (Councillor James Watson)

The Atherton councillor has started by asking all councils across Greater Manchester to follow Bury Council’s lead and offer veterans in their communities free gym memberships. The letter he penned outlined a recent study from the NHS Veteran Aware Trust which acknowledged veterans with musculoskeletal injuries are disadvantaged in terms of their ongoing rehabilitation because there are no facilities for follow on aftercare within the current NHS system.

With many vets struggling financially they cannot afford gym fees - leaving their physical injuries to become more severe. This free gym pass would also include army reserves and those who have just left the military as a ‘thank you’ for their service.

Coun Watson believes the current offer ‘is not good enough’ and more needs to be done to uphold the covenant. This gesture is a ‘cost-effective way’ to show our support for our veterans, he believes.

Coun Watson reminded councils in his letter of the GMCA promise to veterans, of which there are more than 200,000 in Greater Manchester:

“We, the undersigned, commit to honour the Armed Forces Covenant and support the Armed Forces Community.

“We recognise the value Serving Personnel, both Regular and Reservists,

“Veterans and military families contribute to our business and our country.”

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