Many of you will be directly involved in providing this support – perhaps as your council’s Armed Forces Champion, as a cabinet member leading on key policy areas such as housing, employment or education, or as a ward member representing forces’ families.
We at Forces Connect South East (pictured) – a partnership comprising Surrey, Kent, Hampshire, East and West Sussex County Councils, Brighton & Hove City Council, Medway Council, the NHS, 11 Infantry Brigade, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and service charities – can help you, with an offer of armed forces awareness training, free until 31 October and for a modest fee thereafter.
We were awarded £321,300 of MoD covenant grant funding in 2017 to deliver a project enabling fair and consistent advice and access to public services for the armed forces community across the South East and nationally. So far we have reached Yorkshire, Cumbria, Lancashire, East and West Midlands, and East Anglia, and have the capacity to deliver more.
We have trained more than 3,000 people in the South East with courses designed for councillors, officer-level customer-facing staff, front-of-house and call centre staff.
For example, our elected councillor training is designed to strengthen the role of Armed Forces Champions and help connect them to their local covenant leads and the armed forces community. It promotes consistency in advice and the sharing of best practice through cross-border networking with neighbouring authorities.
Our bespoke training packages emphasise the importance of asking, in line with covenant messages: ‘Have you (or your partner) served?’
Other strands of the project include developing digitalised armed forces referral pathways in service areas ranging from carers and families to education and training, to ensure quick and easy access to local support.