Earlier this year, Mayor Jamie Driscoll visited the wellbeing hub of local veterans’ organisation, Forward Assist, which was founded in 2009 and is based at the John Willie Sam’s Community Centre in Dudley.

Mayor Driscoll was met and shown around the hub by Tony Wright, former Royal Marine and founder and CEO of Forward Assist, and Paula Edwards, women veterans lead. The Mayor had the opportunity to meet with a number of the veterans that access the centre and to talk with them about how the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns had impacted on their mental health and wellbeing. Services were restricted during the pandemic lockdowns, but in normal circumstances the Health & Well-being Hub offers a wide variety of daily activities and volunteering opportunities to reduce social isolation and loneliness. The Salute Café & Veterans ‘Drop In’ enables veterans to access Information, Advice & Guidance in a psychologically and physically safe environment.


Forward Assist’s activities are aimed at marginalised, socially isolated, or disenfranchised veterans and they work with veterans of all ages and abilities. Their wellbeing framework facilitates social reintegration and creates a positive pathway to civilian life, further education, training & employment.

Tony and Paula told the Mayor that the next two years look like being a difficult but exciting time as Forward Assist tries to adjust to the ‘post Covid’ normal.  As always, veterans and being of service to the wider community, will be at the centre of their ‘soldier to citizen’ support service. Forward Assist believe veterans are the community’s greatest untapped asset and that their veteran-led community activities enable many to live lives filled with passion, purpose and commitment whilst being of service to others.

Jamie Driscoll, North of Tyne Mayor said: “Many ex-service men and women find readjusting to civilian life difficult. The work which Forward Assist do to help them is remarkable. They  provide a safe place where traumatised veterans can feel physically and psychologically supported, respected, and welcomed.  That’s why I’ll be supporting their work to get veterans into better paid jobs and provide them with training opportunities. Tony and Paula have to be commended for their dedication to making life better for the veterans of the North of Tyne”. 

Following on from Mayor Driscoll’s visit, the North of Tyne Combined Authority is working with Forward Assist to see how we can support them in their valuable work so that more of our veterans can be helped to achieve their potential and live more fulfilled lives.

Mayor Driscoll with be running in the 40th Great North Run on Sunday 12th September. He will be raising money and awareness for Forward Assist and their hard work.

Forward Assist is a registered charity and welcomes support from the public. To find out more about their work and on how you can support them, please go to: https://www.forward-assist.com/ or Virgin Money Giving – Forward Assist 

The veterans supported by Forward Assist:

Bob Wilson, Ex Royal Artillery

Jack Hearn, World War II veteran