War veterans' Norwich office closes

Sarah BrealeyMen who have risked their lives for their country can no longer contact their local veterans' welfare service in Norwich after the office was closed.Sarah Brealey

Men who have risked their lives for their country can no longer contact their local veterans' welfare service in Norwich after the office was closed.

The Veterans Welfare Service had an office at St Mary's House, in Duke Street, but it closed last week and veterans now have to contact the regional office in Kidderminster, 150 miles away. It says they can still receive home visits and support from locally-based welfare managers.

The service offers advice and support on issues such as war pension and compensation applications, housing, benefits, jobs and personal welfare. It is part of the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency, which is run by the Ministry of Defence.

Richard Summers, 69, from Poringland, is angry that veterans can no longer contact a local office. He was an electrician at RAF Marham in the 1950s, but was invalided out after being electrocuted as he tried to fix the runway lights. The accident has affected his health ever since and he now receives a 100pc war pension.

He said: 'I needed some help so I phoned the Norwich office, which was unavailable. I phoned the national HQ of the war pensions department, and they told me I needed to ring Kidderminster. Here I am in Norfolk wanting a local adviser and I am calling Kidderminster!'

He added: 'The government is supposed to have a commitment to look after the military and former servicemen. They are palpably failing that.'

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Mr Summers, who is married to Valerie, 65, has also contacted his MP, Richard Bacon, and veterans minister Kevan Jones. He said: 'My main concern is what happens to the men coming back from Afghanistan who need advice and help?'

The move is part of the closure of 25 offices around the country, which were mostly in Jobcentres and other Department of Work and Pensions buildings, to five regional centres on MOD sites.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: 'We are sorry to hear that Mr Summers is unhappy with the closure of the Norwich Veterans Welfare Service office. We can reassure veterans that we continue to offer a locally based welfare advice service, in the home if needed, as we have done very successfully for many years. Our restructuring is centred on administrative functions back in the office, with a move to five regional centres supported by better IT and more staff available at busy times.'

The new number for veterans in East Anglia to call for initial advice is 01562 825527.

What do you think? Write to Evening News letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email eveningnewsletters@archant.co.uk.

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