A regional partnership board has been set up as part of a two-year project to strengthen support and raise awareness of the Armed Forces across the south west.
Wiltshire Council and its council partners – Bristol City, Cornwall, Devon, Gloucestershire, North Somerset and Somerset, are part of a partnership called Forces Connect South West.
The partnership won £190,000 MOD Covenant Fund Trust funding in 2016 to improve delivery of the Armed Forces Covenant and an extra £150,000 early in 2018 to fund veterans outreach.
The Armed Forces Covenant, represents a promise by the nation that those who serve or have served, and their families, are treated fairly. It aims to raise awareness and promote understanding to benefit military communities and invites all communities including businesses and charities to participate.
Partnership initiatives so far include a website and film which raises awareness of the covenant and provides information on services available.
Now the partnership board will meet regularly to help co-ordinate the initiatives and improve access to veterans and areas that need support.
Chair of the Partnership Board Councillor Rod Williams said. “I’m delighted to facilitate the wish of so many South West Authorities to strengthen our delivery of the Covenant. I thank Wiltshire for its initiative and having got us to this start-point. It is now for all partners to see where we can improve, to learn from each other and to correct unfair treatment where it exists. By adopting a ‘light touch’ approach, using a small amount of time of Members and Officers well, we can improve our delivery of the Covenant at minimal cost.”
Cllr Philip Whitehead, Leader of Wiltshire Council said: “Wiltshire is all the richer for having a military presence. It is important we give back and provide our veterans with access to services and the right support. I’m sure the board will play a key part in ensuring the positive impact of these initiatives across the whole of the South West, will continue long into the future.”
Cllr Don Davies, Leader of North Somerset Council, reiterated his support for the people-centred approach of the SW AF Covenant Partnership Board and welcomed how this will improve outcomes for our past and present service personnel and their families.
There are 87,000 serving personnel and 320,000 veterans across the south west. The agreement is an opportunity to co-ordinate local authority services in support of the military community. It will also coordinate more effectively the wider collaboration with the MOD and other partners in the NHS, Police, Fire and Ambulance services as well as military charities and businesses to improve pathways to access accommodation, health services, employment, financial support and education.
Army veteran Sarah Welch the new Outreach Project Officer who will be coordinating a programme and the partnerships with local services and support said, “The addition of our mobile capability is a great step toward reaching out to more remote areas in the region where veterans may be struggling to access services and need our engagement and encouragement. I look forward to maximising the opportunities this asset will provide and strengthening our links with partner agencies to deliver support, education and awareness across the south west to improve outcomes for our Armed Forces Community, who have given so much and deserve our investment and backing.”