AS celebrations take place across the country for Armed Forces Week [21 to 27 June], this year’s events also mark 10 years since organisations across Wales signed up to the Armed Forces Covenant.
The Covenant was established to help ensure past and present members of the Armed Forces community are not disadvantaged when accessing services, and that they receive special consideration, for example, for access to health services if their condition is Service related.
In Wales, this commitment to the Covenant has included:
• Increasing NHS funding specifically for veterans for physical and mental health services;
• A Welsh-specific Resettlement Guide for Service leavers and families;
• Guaranteed interview schemes for ex-Service personnel;
• Funding support for children of Armed Forces personnel;
• Funding for charities to tackle loneliness and social isolation amongst ex-Service personnel.
Deputy Minister for Social Partnership, Hannah Blythyn, visited Hightown Barracks in Wrexham yesterday
She said: “Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, our serving Armed Forces and veterans have continued to provide invaluable support and expertise to communities across the country.
“Armed Forces Week provides us with the platform and opportunity to recognise and reflect on the considerable part our Armed Forces, past and present, have played in keeping our communities safe. They rightly deserve our gratitude and appreciation.”
The VC Gallery in Pembrokeshire is one charity which has received funding from the Welsh Government to specifically support ex-Service personnel. This recent funding allowed them to support veterans in remote areas to address isolation and break down barriers to getting support.
Speaking about the Gallery’s work, co-ordinator Barry John MBE, said:
“VC Gallery hosts a variety of events, both culturally and socially, for ex-Service personnel as well as the wider community. We passionately believe art and culture can improve health, wellbeing and overall quality of life.
“Maintaining close links between the military and community is essential to ensure they and their families stay connected, have better health outcomes and positive experiences after their service. We will continue to work alongside the NHS and Local Authority services for the greater good of all our military personnel across Wales.
“Our recent project during the pandemic gave us the ability to ask ex-Service personnel and their families directly to tell us what support they needed and, importantly, what access to wider support services and organisations they’d like to see.”
Wales is the only country in the UK to have recruited Armed Forces Liaison Officers. Funded as part of Welsh Government’s commitment to supporting current and ex-Serving personnel.
Lisa Rawlings is one of eight Armed Forces Liaison Officers (AFLOs) across Wales.
Having spent 25 years in the RAF, she now provides policy guidance across 5 Local Authorities in Gwent as well as helping to facilitate the right support for current and ex-Serving personnel and their families.
Lisa said: “As a veteran myself I am passionate about the Armed Forces community. My job as an AFLO means I advise and assist – from the perspective of the Armed Forces and their families – in the development, implementation and monitoring of key council and partnership plans, priorities and strategic initiatives.
“This includes delivering awareness training to make sure we continue to redress the disadvantages that the Armed Forces community may face in comparison to other citizens, and to recognise sacrifices made.”
As AFLO’s cover the 22 Local Authorities of Wales, they are able to identify issues and best practice for consideration at an all-Wales level.
Lisa continued: “Collaboration is absolutely key. Public bodies, third sector organisations, and the military and Armed Forces community are working hard to ensure that no one faces disadvantages due to their service.”
Additionally as part of Armed Forces Week, Wales’ first Resettlement Guide will be published on Thursday highlighting the support in place for Serving personnel and their families wishing to re-locate to Wales.