Armed Forces Conference for the East of England 13th March 2024

About the Event

The focus of this highly interactive conference held at Newmarket Racecourses Conference Centre was how we can collaboratively deliver the best possible service to veterans in the East of England.

During the day we heard from a range of speakers about how they deliver great services to the veterans' community in various sectors from Health, Housing, and Charities. We also carried out some discussions in smaller groups, sharing knowledge and discussing some key issues affecting veterans.

This conference brought together key people from various sectors, all of whom make a difference in how we offer help to our veterans. Lots of ideas were generated and further discussions are planned as to how we can work together to streamline our services.

Below are the speakers and links to their presentations. We will be adding the video recording to the site shortly.

If you attended the event and wanted to give some feedback please fill in the form below.



The Bridge for Heroes’ mission is to support members of the Armed Forces Community by providing companionship along with information, advice, guidance and activities that promote positive mental health and well-being. Established in 2010, The Bridge for Heroes opened in King’s Lynn town centre in 2011, providing services to the local Armed Forces Community. From here services began to grow and expand into larger premises in 2014.

The Bridge for Heroes has a small and dedicated team of staff, volunteers and trustees.



After serving with the Army for 12 years and being medically retired from his subsequent career as a prison officer, Nigel began suffering from depression, anxiety and flashbacks from an incident experienced during his time on operations with the armed forces.

A private counsellor referred Nigel to the Combat Stress organization and with support and intervention from them, he was formally diagnosed as suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Nigel was accepted onto a 6-week trauma related course which has assisted in his ongoing recovery from this terrible mental health condition.

Nigel had taken his coffee machine with him on this residential course, and noticed what a draw this was to other veterans and serving personnel. He realized that people felt comfortable to talk about difficult things and enjoy community over a cup of coffee. He realised that coffee and conversation could help other veterans like him to talk about, receive advice and support and most importantly hope from others who been there.

Inspired by this experience, Nigel set up Combat2Coffee CIC in 2018. Roasting and supplying single sourced Brazilian coffee to organisations across the country. Running Level 2 Barista training programmes in prisons. Delivering veterans outreach across Suffolk and North-East Essex funded by the AFCTF/Bridge for Heroes, which enables mobile coffee vehicles & conversations across Suffolk and North East Essex, a network of veterans' community events and provides 1-2-1 support to veterans and their families.

View Above Video



Michelle joined DMWS in March 2022 as the VPPP Portfolio Lead for the Midlands region, following a successful 3 ½ years working for three East Midlands Local Authorities (LA) as Armed Forces Lead Officer. Michelle worked in adult health and social care leading the strategic delivery of the Armed Forces Covenant across the whole authority, ensuring the LA’s fulfilled their statutory obligations, and striving to remove disadvantage for the Armed Forces Community. As the single point of contact between LA’s, local military barracks, local veterans’ organisations, statutory and third sector local and regional partners, she facilitated and supported the development of good working relationships.

A passionate ambassador for the Armed Forces Community, Michelle combines personal lived experience with professional programme management. A meticulous and hardworking programme and project manager with 17 years’ experience of successful programme delivery and contract management in the retail business sector. She is also a qualified secondary school teacher, one of the many career developments enjoyed as a military spouse and mother to two Service children. In 2013, the Woolman-Lanes settled in Rutland to enjoy rural life as their children started secondary education. In 2019, Michelle’s husband retired after 35 years in the Royal Air Force.



Darren has dedicated over 13 years to The Bridge for Heroes, holding diverse roles that showcase his expertise. With a background spanning local government, education, IT support for private hospitals, and business improvement analysis, he brings a wealth of knowledge. Alongside running his own business since 2006, Darren recently took on the VPPP programme management for the East region. He is actively involved with The Bridge for Heroes management, overseeing IT and other key areas. With his multifaceted experience and strong commitment, Darren plays a vital role in driving the success of The Bridge for Heroes.



Mel Broadbent is one of the DWP Armed Forces Champions (AFC) Network. Mel has worked at DWP for almost 15 years and has had the role within the London and Essex AFC team for almost 3 years. Her experience covers a wide range of benefits as well as provision to support individuals into work. As part of her role within Essex she also provides support to serving personnel families based at the nearby Garrisons as well as those going through resettlement at the Personnel Recovery Centre (PRC) or being discharged via the Military Corrective Training Centre (MCTC). Being based in Colchester she has always been supportive of the Forces community within the benefit system with her first introduction as a “volunteer” going to MCTC to complete paper claims for Job Seekers Allowance, supporting workshops at PRC since its opening and also delivering DWP Rapid Response Service to those effected by large scale redundancies 10 years ago.



Tina has over 24 years of Housing and Homelessness experience in Local Government in administering Part 7 of the Homelessness Act.

Tina leads a busy and proactive team in investigating and relieving homelessness for Norwich City Council which has achieved gold standard status for the Housing Options Service.



Alice has over seven years of experience in Local Government and three years of Housing and Homelessness experience in administering Part 7 of the Homelessness Act.

Alice supports in leading a busy and proactive team in investigating and relieving homelessness for Norwich City Council which has achieved gold standard status for the Housing Options Service

View Above Video



Paul is the Chief Nurse at the James Paget University Hospital

Paul has not served in the UK Armed Forces but holds a deep admiration, respect and desire to support our forces in any way he can. Most of Paul’s career has been spent in the Emergency Department and this has enabled him to support many different personnel to stay current and support their development. Paul is also Honorary 48th Med Group Commander for the US Airbase at RAF Lakenheath. Paul believes in the ‘Art of the Possible’ and to support our armed forces to thrive, both in and after service.



Dr Roger Kingerlee is Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Clinical Lead of Staff Support and Veterans’ Services, NSFT. Dr Kingerlee co-wrote and co-leads the Veterans’ Stabilisation Programme (VSP), which now runs across the East of England via Op Courage and NSFT and is in its 10th anniversary year. Dr Kingerlee has published in various areas; he was most recently second co-editor of The Palgrave Handbook of Male Psychology and Mental Health (2019) which includes chapters on military and Veteran psychologies.




David is ex British Army and started military life as a Rifleman in the Royal Green Jackets and then transferred to REME. After eight years in the Corps, he left and trained as a Mental Health Nurse in Essex.

David has worked within Armed Forces Mental Health since 2011, as Clinical Nurse specialist. He has been leading Op COURAGE Service East of England since 2021.



Stephen is an RAF veteran, having served as an Air Traffic Controller between 1971 to 1986. Stephen then held a senior role in the commercial sector in international financial services, followed by a Senior Civil Servant role with HMT before moving to the NHS, holding senior roles across several NHS trusts in the region. Stephen has also been a volunteer Chair of a national charity combating isolation and loneliness and was shortlisted as a finalist in the 2020 British Ex Forces in Business Lifetime Achievement Awards. Now retired, Stephen holds various roles including working as the East of England lead for the RCGP and NHSE Veteran Friendly Primary Care accreditation programme, a volunteer on the EoE region Veterans Advisory Pension Committee, a member of the Norfolk Armed Forces Covenant Board and a partner of the new NHSE Patient Safety team.



Dougie is the Strategic Lead & Registered Manager at Tom Harrison House.

It is a privilege to work with staff and volunteers at Tom Harrison House to best deliver a wide range of new approaches / ways of working that has kept our beneficiaries safe and fully engaged in their respective treatment / recovery programmes through all the vagaries of the last five years. Facilitating genuine partnership and collaboration have been key to the ambition of creating fully integrated and fully funded pathways to armed forces veterans struggling with addiction and poor mental health. We continue to build strong working relationships with both statutory and third sector organisations across the country, to maximise accessibility of THH's military specific offer. I am an experienced change leader with a successful track record of driving organisational and service transformation in public, private and third sectors, in prisons and in the community. By placing beneficiaries at the heart of service provision, I have a reputation for successfully delivering difficult and challenging projects. I am a Fellow at the Institute of Leadership (FIoL).

Event Feedback

Please let us know if you have any feedback about the event or further thoughts about any of the topics presented or the workshops.

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