PENARTH MP Stephen Doughty met Royal British Legion beneficiaries at the Pier Pavilion on Friday, and heard first-hand about the positive impact of the Legion’s outreach work in Wales.
The visit was part of the ‘Journey into the Legion’ programme, a scheme designed to give MPs a full insight into the work of the RBL, covering the four central activities of Representation, Comradeship, Remembrance and Welfare.
Penarth Pier Pavilion, which supports a number of local groups for veterans and their families, hosted the meeting in the 617 Room, and Stephen met RBL beneficiaries Neil Adams and Dave Ireland.
Neil, 31, served in the Royal Marines from 2005 to 2012, seeing active service during two tours of Afghanistan and numerous worldwide deployments. After leaving the Marines, he gained professional qualifications as an instructor in personal training, circuit training, diabetes and obesity management, mixed martial arts and more, and approached the Legion in August 2013, seeking support to help develop his business idea - IKAN fitness personal training.
With the help of the Legion’s case officer for South East Wales, Neil was able to gain financial support from the Royal Naval Benevolent Trust and the Royal Marines Charitable Trust, as well as the Legion, to buy equipment for his new business. They also covered the cost of registering with Companies House and building a professional website.
Neil now has a client base of 20 people engaging in regular personal training and boot camps with numbers increasing all the time.
He said: “The support of the RBL has been fantastic for me, and it was great to meet Stephen as it is vital people know about it.
“From my background in the Royal Marines, I am passionate about health and fitness and I want to make a real success of my business, IKAN fitness. I am now working hard to build up my client base and advertise locally and I was really pleased to be able to highlight the great work the Legion does for veterans across Wales like me, who have served our country and are now looking to make a contribution in local communities where we live.”
Dave Ireland served with the Queen’s Dragoon Guards from 1988 to 1993. After service he worked in the telecoms industry, and for the YMCA, and was supported by the Legion in 2011 with essential housing goods and financial advice.
Dave said: “The Legion has done so much for me and I was delighted to meet Stephen and give him an insight into the issues facing members of the Armed Forces community, and specifically veterans like myself.
“The Legion does vital work in so many ways and people need to realise the broad range of work they do. The Legion was there for me when I needed a helping hand more than ever, and because of that, I am now looking forward and getting on with my life.”
An active member of veteran support groups, he is now examining volunteering opportunities with the Armed Forces community.
Following the session, Stephen – Labour MP for Cardiff South and Penarth - said: “It was a fascinating morning, which really brought home how important the work of the Legion is, and the positive impact they are having in communities both locally and across Wales.
“It was an honour to meet Neil and Dave, and to gain an insight into their differing backgrounds and experiences. To hear how the Legion has helped them move on with life after leaving the Forces showed me just how many different areas of work the Legion covers, but always with the needs of the beneficiary at the forefront.
“I’d like to thank the RBL’s Wales area team, and the Penarth Pier Pavilion, for making the visit possible. It’s great to see the Pavilion team supporting our armed forces community in such a tangible way.”
Phil Jones, RBL Wales area manager, said: “We were delighted that Stephen was able to visit our Area team in Wales, to discover more about the challenges facing our beneficiaries and how the Legion continues to be there to support them.”
Stephen took a letter to the RBL Wales team and the Pier Pavilion thanking them for their support for former and current service men and women and their families, from Labour leader Ed Miliband, who was in Cardiff on Friday morning.
And last Thursday, May 1, Stephen raised his forthcoming visit with the RBL in the Commons, asking the Leader of the House to join him in "welcoming their work, and finding time for a debate on the importance of community covenants and strengthening community partnerships, such as this excellent work".