intu Metrocentre is supporting Forward Assist in its initiative to improve services for former service personnel in the UK.
Forward Assist is an award winning Veteran Support Charity based in the north east of England which provides advice, information, guidance and opportunities to veterans who are experiencing difficulties in adjusting to their new life as a civilian. The charity was founded by Tony Wright, a former Royal Marine and Registered Social Worker, originally from Thornaby, Teesside, who has first-hand experience of how difficult life can be for former service personnel after leaving the Armed Forces.
This month, thanks to sponsorship from intu Metrocentre, Team Forward Assist will be visiting Washington DC with colleagues Sarah Lattaway, Female Veterans Lead, and Lian Kirton, Female Veteran and Forward Assist Volunteer, to gain valuable insight into the support provided to female veterans in the USA and to investigate how similar initiatives could be implemented back in the UK for female veterans involved in the justice system.
In America, the organisation Justice for Vets has recognised how the bonds of military camaraderie can be used to implement positive changes in the lives of former service personnel whose mental health issues or problems with substance abuse have resulted in court appearances. One aspect of this involves training volunteers to act as mentors who help their fellow veterans to secure housing, education, employment as well as benefits earned through military service, while also increasing morale and providing motivational support.
In 2015, Tony trained as a Veterans Court Mentor with the Justice for Vets organisation and over the last five years has campaigned tirelessly to encourage the introduction of a similar system to the UK Criminal Justice System. Forward Assist’s recent work to design a ‘needs led’ service specifically for female veterans has garnered considerable support from local Members of Parliament including Emma Lewell Buck, MP for South Shields, Dave Anderson, MP for Blaydon, Anne Marie Trevelyan, MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed and Anna Turley, MP for Redcar.

During their upcoming visit to Washington DC, the team from Forward Assist will attend a sitting of the Fairfax Veteran Treatment Court to better understand how former military personnel in the Criminal Justice System are rehabilitated.
Team Forward Assist will be meeting with Kayla Williams, Director of the Department of Veterans Affairs Centre for Women Veterans, to better understand how the Department supports female veterans after service. The team are delighted to be visiting a unique project working with homeless female veterans and their children. They will also visit an equine therapy centre for veterans and a centre which trains service dogs for veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
On their return the team has been invited to the House of Commons by Emma Lewell Buck, Anne Marie Trevelyan and the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) to share their findings from the research trip to help develop services for all female veterans in the UK.
Tony Wright, Founder and CEO at Forward Assist, said:
Forward Assist are delighted that intu Metrocentre has stepped in to support this ground breaking research trip to Washington DC. The knowledge gained will help shape future services for UK female veterans and it builds upon a fantastic working partnership developed between the two organisations to improve the life chances and future job opportunities for unemployed military veterans.”
Clare Cannon, community manager, intu north east, commented:
intu Metrocentre is committed to the community that it serves and as such is always keen to support local groups and charities, to help them achieve their goals. The north east is renowned for its strong sense of identity and community spirit and these attributes are synonymous with Forward Assist’s aim to improve services for former servicemen and women here in the UK.”