The future of Aldershot’s Gurkha Welfare Advice Centre is uncertain after the director of the Gurkha Welfare Trust (GWT), which runs it, confirmed it could be replaced by an outreach service.
A review of the High Street centre, co-located with the Citizens Advice Bureau, will be conducted by the trust this autumn to decide whether the demand from Rushmoor’s Nepali community has decreased to the point where the centre could be closed and funds used to provide advice surgeries around the country instead.
This would leave only the trust’s headquarters in Salisbury as a permanent office.
At Aldershot Constituency Labour Party’s Diversity and Democracy recent meeting concerns were raised by members of the Nepali community that the loss of the centre would leave them unsupported and vulnerable. However, GWT director Colonel William Shuttlewood, has insisted the Aldershot centre, built as an ‘annex’ to address the specific need in Rushmoor following the Government’s decision to allow Gurkhas to settle in the UK, will remain for as long as it is required.
“Closing it would smack of abandonment,” he said. “What we are looking to do is make sure we look at our resources sensibly.
“We’re a charity and we respond to need. If the circumstances changed, it was always the intention to draw down the annex and relocate. But if need in Aldershot remains, then there is no question of changing welfare support.”
GWT provides support and advice to Gurkha veterans and their families to ensure they are not in poverty
Last week's meeting at Farnborough’s Samuel Cody Specialist Sports College, was attended by nearly 100 people, including former Gurkhas and representatives from the Non-Resident Nepali UK association, the Greater Rushmoor Nepali Community and the British Gurkha Welfare Society.
Labour MPs Kevan Jones and Fiona MacTaggart attended to speak to the audience, and pledged to do whatever they could to ensure Aldershot’s welfare centre remains open.
Councillor Alex Crawford, leader of the Labour Group of the borough council and a long-time supporter of Nepali immigrants, spoke of the work being done to support Rushmoor’s Nepali community, such as arguing against quotas for Gurkha settlement and for their free choice of where to live.
He also spoke of the campaign for fair pensions for Gurkhas, including his visit to meet former Gurkha Gyanraj Raj during his recent two-week hunger strike outside Whitehall over the issue.
Also present last Wednesday was Labour’s European election candidate for the South East, Anneliese Dodds, and prospective parliamentary candidate and representative for Labour Friends of the Forces, Jon Wheale.