Scottish armed force veterans with life changing injuries are amongst thousands of Scots set to benefit from £3 million of National Lottery funding.
New social enterprise, Scotland’s Bravest Manufacturing Company (SBMC), will now be able to provide manufacturing training opportunities for 150 disabled or long term unemployed over three years, thanks to a grant of £120,000 from the Big Lottery Fund.
Run by the Royal British Legion Industries (RBLI), the Renfrewshire based factory gives armed force veterans, like 38 year old triple amputee Gary Jamieson, the chance to earn a living while developing new skills in manufacturing activities including printing, signage and product engineering.
Welcoming the news, Gavin Newlands, local MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire North, commented:
“I’m delighted that this funding is being delivered to Renfrewshire and I am proud that this excellent work takes place in my constituency; it makes a real positive impact on people’s lives.
“Social enterprises like this can play a very important a part in promoting an inclusive society by providing people with vital training and skills in highly employable areas.
“Although the UK Government should do more to make veteran’s lives easier, which would be helped by a reversal of their brutal austerity measures, it is immeasurably encouraging to see people like SBMC work hard to help.
“This funding will ensure that these worthwhile efforts can continue.”
Gary, from Strathaven, lost both of his legs below the knee and his left arm above the elbow whilst on patrol in Afghanistan in 2010 with the 1st Battalion Scots Guards. Through SBMC, he has been trained as a water jet cutter and will soon be passing on his skills to other veterans.
He said: “Coming from an army background I am used to being busy and surrounded by other people. I never thought I would get the opportunity to do this kind of work and that all these opportunities might be open to me. Not only am I getting specialised skills but real experience of working in a busy factory, learning about how the business operates.
“Working here has given me a real structure to my life and I look forward to coming in every day, not only for the work but for the camaraderie that I have really missed. I look forward to helping other veterans and being an example to them. If I can do it with no legs and one arm then they can do it too.”
Michelle Ferguson, Director of Scotland’s Bravest Manufacturing Company, added: “The vast majority of veterans leave the Armed Forces and transition relatively easily to civilian life, while for some, they can face immense difficulty in adapting when facing challenges with life-changing injuries and mental health conditions.
“Ex- servicemen and women however do leave with a tremendous skill which is unfortunately overlooked by employers, and this backing from the National Lottery, will be crucial in our ability to offer a real lifeline to veterans living in Scotland, helping us to develop a Learning an Development Department – headed by a trained welfare professional.
“We can now ensure that our veterans are given the bespoke welfare support and training they need to develop their talents, acquire new skills and go on to reach their potential in the world of work.”
The project is one of 18 across Scotland sharing in £3,066,902 from the Big Lottery Fund
Announcing the awards, Maureen McGinn, Big Lottery Fund Scotland Chair, said: “Thanks to National Lottery players, today’s £3m investment reaches into many communities across Scotland, transforming the lives of local people. I am delighted to see some of this funding will help veterans learn new skills through a unique social enterprise in the grounds of Erskine Hospital. This will equip them for future employment and a positive transition to life out-with the armed forces.”