Wired-GOV Newswire (news from other organisations)
LGA - Millions of veterans need access to vital council support
Millions of veterans will miss out on priority housing, school places for their children, jobs and health support unless councils are given the ability to better identify those in need of help and currently falling through the cracks.
It is increasingly difficult for councils to map the armed forces community living in their local area and understand the unique public services they need.
The Local Government Association (LGA) said every council across the country has now pledged support to their local armed forces personnel by signing Community Covenants but are warning the impact of them will be limited unless government keeps a more complete picture of all those who have served.
This would be made available at a local authority level so that all councils have the information they need to fulfil their duty of care to the armed forces as set out in the military covenant.
As part of the covenant, local authorities across the country are offering veterans priority to affordable housing, running training courses and back-to-work programmes and allocating priority school places to the children of families of military personnel before they move to an area.
Also eligible for support are the ever-growing number of voluntary reservists - set to reach 35,000 by 2018 - who currently make up 14 per cent of the Navy, Air Force and Territorial Army in frontline roles and also as mechanics, cooks and drivers.
Veterans are also able take advantage of debt advice, financial crisis support, free access to gym facilities and bus fare discounts.
Councils are working with local charities to protect vulnerable former soldiers from social isolation and to offer support and counselling to those suffering from mental health or physical problems.
Cllr Gary Porter, LGA Vice-Chairman, said:
"Councils are proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with our armed forces and are committed to help those serving our country on their return from duty or veterans already living within our communities.
"There are more than four million veterans in the UK and armed forces personnel have much to offer. However, some veterans struggle with the transition from military to civilian life, finding it hard to access the services they need. Financial and employment advice, housing or mental health support offered by local authorities across country are proving invaluable in helping our brave servicemen and women.
"We fear millions are getting lost in the system and are missing out on this vital support because they are unaware of the benefits available to them. Councils cannot help them if we don't know who they are and our efforts will be hampered unless we, as a nation, keep more accurate information on where they live.
"We recognise the need for privacy and data protection laws, but we think it's time for the Government and other bodies to work with us to find a way to share data that will ensure that funding, information and support follows our service personnel for the rest of their lives."
- Rochdale Council is actively supporting ex-service personnel by guaranteeing interviews for council jobs for those who have left the Armed Forces within the last two years. Since the scheme was introduced in 2013, it has helped four people find work.
- Liverpool City Council is home to an estimated 32,000 veterans in the city – a third of whom are over the age of 65. It has set up a one-stop shop for veterans which runs training courses and back-to-work programmes. Veterans mental health charity Talking 2 Minds also provides a service.
- Wandsworth Council has set aside a quota of affordable social housing for serving or recent armed forces personnel with a link to the borough. Since 2011, 17 families have been re-housed.
- Buckinghamshire County Council has become the first to extend the fair access protocol so that service families can be allocated a school place prior to moving to a catchment area. Workshops have been held for schools to advise them over how to use the pupil premium to benefit service children.
- Gateshead Council has used MoD funding to set up an outreach worker post acting as a first point of contact for any former Armed Forces personnel. The Gateshead Veterans and Family Hub has also been formed to combat social isolation. One in eight of the male population in the north-east are thought to be veterans with Catterick Garrison – the largest British army base in the world – located in the region
- Portsmouth City Council has made tackling the health of the estimated 20,000 veterans living in the city a key priority. A register of veterans has been set up by local GPs and personnel have been given priority access to local therapy service Talking Chance. Two alcohol specialist nurses posts have been set up to provide support and local group Wetwheels was set up to take elderly and disabled veterans on trips to tackle social isolation.
Notes to editors
1. Community Covenants outline the moral obligation between the nation and the armed forces. Its aim is to encourage local communities to support the armed forces community in their area and promote understanding and awareness among the public of issues affecting them
Armed Forces Community Covenant – on the .gov.uk website
2. The current categorisation means that in 2005 there were about 4.8 million veterans in the United Kingdom and, by including their dependents, it placed around 10 million people – about 18 per cent of the UK population – in the wider veterans' community
Report on UK veteran communities – on the British Legion website
3. In America, comprehensive information about the Armed Forces community is publically available. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) annually collects information on the total number of veterans in each state under a National Survey of Veterans, which helps to inform policy decisions and improve benefits.
Greg Burns, Senior Media Relations Officer
Local Government Association
Telephone: 020 7664 3184
Media Office (for out-of-hours contact): 020 7664 3333
Local Government House, Smith Square, London SW1P 3HZ
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