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Help for Heroes to axe third of staff and mothball three recovery centres for wounded vets as coronavirus hits donations

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HELP for Heroes is to axe a third of staff and mothball three recovery centres for wounded veterans after being hit by a drop in donations caused by the Covid-19 crisis.

The charity for vulnerable servicemen and women since 2007 announced today it will make up to 90 workers redundant.

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Bosses have had to axe one in three jobs and close recovery centres at Catterick, North Yorks, Plymouth, Devon, and Colchester, Essex, for ‘the foreseeable future’ to keep the charity afloat.

In a major blow to the charity, only Help for Heroes’ flagship recovery centre at Tedworth House, Wilts – shut since lockdown began – will reopen, if it can be done safely in the pandemic.

Chief executive Melanie Waters gave devastated staff the news on a video at 10.30 this morning.

She told them Help for Heroes has a responsibility to make sure the life-long support promised to the men and women who suffered life-changing injuries or illnesses as a result of their service could continue. 

She said: “In 2007, we made a promise on behalf of the nation to provide lifetime support to wounded veterans, and their families, and we are striving to keep that promise. 

“The crisis has had a devastating impact on the whole UK charity sector, with lasting consequences, and it has hit us hard.

“These tough decisions have been made to protect the future of the charity and have been taken with our beneficiaries in mind. 

“We remain absolutely committed to our wounded and their families and will continue fighting for, and changing the lives of, those we support for as long as they need it.” 

Launched in The Sun and backed by our brilliant readers, Help for Heroes receives 97 per cent of its income from donations and charity fundraisers, which have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

Sources said donations from national collections at shops and stores have plunged 75 per cent and income from fundraising events, like sponsored walks and bike rides, has fallen by 65 per cent.

Regional collections are also down by 40per cent.

The organisation- which normally raises around £27million a year – expects its funds to be down by at least a third for the foreseeable future.

The charity, where 130 workers have been on furlough for seven months, has told its 318 full-time and part-time staff that 40per cent of jobs are at risk.

Following consultation talks a third will be paid off to save money.

While funds have dried up because of the pandemic, the number of veterans being referred to Help for Heroes with mental health problems because of lockdown rose by 33 per cent in May and June compared to 2019.

The crisis has had a devastating impact on the whole UK charity sector, with lasting consequences, and it has hit us hard.

And requests for help for help with physical conditions went up 30 per cent.

Help for Heroes was founded in October 2007 by former Army Captain Bryn Parry and wife Emma after they visited badly- wounded soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan who had been sent to hospital in Birmingham.

Appalled by the lack of facilities for injured veterans, their plan was to raise £5million for a swimming pool at the military’s recovery centre at Headley Court in Surrey.

But when The Sun ran a front page story in October 2007 backing the charity and highlighting the plight of our wounded heroes millions of pounds poured in.

With very little government assistance, Help for Heroes, has raised more than £300million and helped 26,500 veterans and their families in 13 years.

Last year Help for Heroes raised £26.9million but it cost £32million to look after veterans.

But since the coronavirus pandemic began, donations have virtually dried up.

A spokesman said: “Help for Heroes was quick to adapt its support in March, despite having to furlough nearly 40per cent of its staff for up to seven months, and has continued to deliver virtual and remote support through its fellowship, welfare, clinical, grants and psychological wellbeing services ever since.  

“With significant uncertainty around the economy and ever- changing COVID restrictions, the charity will continue to focus on face to face community and digital services.

“We will not be operating out of three of our Recovery Centres for the foreseeable future. 

“Help for Heroes will be returning to face-to-face delivery of centre-based services in a COVID secure environment from our Tedworth House recovery centre in Wiltshire. 

  “The charity is working closely with MoD to ensure that all centres continue to provide core recovery activities for wounded, injured or sick Service Personnel during lockdown and beyond.”

To donate to Help for Heroes, visit here.

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