Aryshire’s new armed forces welfare centre

Air Marshal Stuart Atha  (centre) is joined by Rear Admiral Chris Hockley (L) and Poppyscotland's Mark Bibbey (r) at the Kilmarnock centre.
Air Marshal Stuart Atha (centre) is joined by Rear Admiral Chris Hockley (L) and Poppyscotland's Mark Bibbey (r) at the Kilmarnock centre.

Poppyscotland has opened a new welfare centre to serve the 37,000 members of the armed forces community who live in and around Ayrshire.

Air Marshal Stuart Atha (55), who is Deputy Commander Operations was joined by The MacRobert Trust’s chairman (elect), local dignitaries, fellow members of the Armed Forces, veterans and Poppyscotland chief executive, Mark Bibbey for the official opening of the centre at Kilmarnock.

The west of Scotland has enjoyed close links with the Armed Forces for many years. Around 37,000 individuals who have served or are still serving, and their families live in the area, and now, thanks to generous funding from both The MacRobert Trust and LIBOR, Poppyscotland has opened this specialist support and advice centre in Kilmarnock to provide one-to-one local contact.

Air Marshal Atha explained: “The challenges facing those who serve, and those who have served, have resulted in increasing numbers reaching out in their time of need. The team working at The MacRobert Centre will meet that need by delivering joined up support in one location.”

Gary Gray, head of welfare at Poppyscotland said that he hoped the Welfare Centre in Ayrshire would mirror the success of a similar centre in Inverness.

Mr Gray explained: “Since opening in June 2013, almost 2,500 people have accessed the Inverness Welfare Centre for general information and guidance. Support is available across a range of areas, including finances, housing, mental and physical health, and employment. The majority of clients have been under 60 (85 per cent), with most being aged 35 to 59.

“The centre also runs drop-ins for veterans and in addition to direct work with clients, the centre works in partnership with a range of military and civilian organisations including SSAFA, CAB, Combat Stress and Veterans’ First Point.”

Poppyscotland chief executive Mark Bibbey added: “We are delighted to have opened our second Welfare Centre in Kilmarnock. Ayrshire is home to many members of Scotland’s Armed Forces community and we look forward to delivering a holistic service to help those who are in need of not only our support, but also that of our sister charities and statutory organisations.

“We have already formed strong partnerships with many organisations and are very grateful for the warmth of the welcome that we have received. Working collaboratively with our partners will ensure that we deliver the best possible support to those who have made significant sacrifices.”

The MacRobert Trust’s chief executive, Rear Admiral Chris Hockley, said: “The MacRobert Trust’s strong connections with military personnel and their ultimate well-being is well known and we are therefore delighted to be so formally associated with this excellent initiative that we hope will make finding advice and help so much easier and less stressful.”