Armed Forces Covenant Champions form South West Partnership
A South West Armed Forces Covenant Partnership Board has been formed to strengthen the delivery of the Armed Forces Covenant to the 87,000 serving Armed Forces personnel and 320,000 veterans across the region.
The initial council partners in the partnership are Bristol City, Cornwall, Devon, Gloucestershire, North Somerset, Somerset and Wiltshire.
The Armed Forces Covenant is a promise from the nation to those who serve or have served that we will do all we can to ensure they are treated fairly and not disadvantaged in their day-to-day lives. The covenant seeks to ensure fair treatment for Regulars, Reservists, Veterans and their immediate families.
The unique characteristics and demands of serving in the Armed Forces means servicemen and women, and their families, can experience unfair treatment often due to them moving house frequently in the interests of the service. Unfair treatment can occur in the areas of credit, finance and insurance, education and school places, employment, healthcare, housing and the criminal justice system.
Responsibility for ensuring the covenant is delivered lies with county and unitary authorities, who lead county partnerships across the public, private and charity sectors. Since the covenant was introduced in 2011, considerable variation in delivering the covenant has developed across the south west.
Wiltshire Council has led an initiative to learn lessons from the covenant's delivery in the south east and for the south west to adopt a more collective approach. Responsibility and authority for delivering the covenant will remain with the south west's county and unitary authorities. However, the South West Partnership will enable its partners to share best practice and some resources, to coordinate the delivery of relevant services, and to widen and deepen support for the military community.
A partnership board has been formed to direct the South West Partnership and to ensure that it improves delivery of the covenant.
The Chair of the South West Partnership Board, Cllr 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 members and officers' time 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.
Army veteran Sarah Welch will lead an Outreach Programme to promote awareness and understanding of the Covenant across the South West throughout 2020 and 2021.
She said: "The addition of our new outreach vehicle is a great step toward us reaching out to the more remote areas of the region where veterans may struggle to access services and need our engagement and encouragement. I look forward to maximising the opportunities this vehicle will provide and strengthening our links with partner agencies. We will deliver support, education and awareness across the south west to improve outcomes for our Armed Forces community, who have given so much."
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.