England & Wales Communities and society

Serving the services

Serving the servicesThe LGiU’s new publication, Honouring the Armed Service Community, compiled in cooperation with the Royal British Legion, explains the simple cost effective measures councils can take.

First, knowing how many veterans; reservists and armed forces personnel there are in your area and what public services they are accessing is important. North Yorkshire County Council has undertaken mapping exercises to identify locally based MOD employees and assess their contribution to the local economy.

Armed forces community representatives could be included in the bodies that frame your policy and delivery such as the Local Strategic Partnership and the Local Economic Partnership. Leicestershire County Council operates an All-Party Working Group on support to the Armed forces. This can prevent any serious omissions and help them to be rectified, where they currently exist.

Your council could assume a voluntary duty to consider the needs of veterans in designing and delivering health, housing and education services in their community. This could be designed and monitored in cooperation with an independent charitable body, such as the Royal British Legion.

In addition, local authorities could coordinate local businesses to provide discounts to members of the Armed forces community. Rochford District Council operates a Shop at My Local Scheme, this model could be adapted for the Armed forces community.

Public services can recognise that reservists face unique difficulties obtaining and retaining work given the time demands of this important role. Manchester City Council supports a ‘Hire A Hero’ campaign, founded by Karen Chadwick and led by ex-Service personnel.

Another idea is for councils to make service personnel aware of the remaining opportunities to purchase homes on a shared ownership basis. And members of the Armed forces can be awarded greater priority when allocating social housing.

Disregarding local preference rules for service personnel or granting them greater priority will allow them to amass time on the social housing waiting list like any other citizen.

When means testing applications for Disabled Facilities Grants councils have the power to disregard payments made in respect of injuries incurred during service and we would encourage them to make use of this flexibility.

And don’t forget the children of service personnel, who deserve the same level of education as other children and monitoring these children throughout their school career can ensure this. Oxfordshire County Council flags service children to ensure appropriate standards are met.

Armed forces personnel have a statutory right to priority treatment for injuries incurred during service. We would encourage councils to take all possible steps to ensure local GP commissioning teams know of this right and apply it in practice. Time spent waiting for NHS treatment in one area should be carried over to another NHS trust if personnel are deployed elsewhere.

War memorials within the council area could be audited to assess their condition and necessary repairs made. The Leicestershire and Rutland War Memorial Project began in 2009; it has found almost 1,000 previously unrecorded memorials in the last two years.

Councils could work with veterans groups in their area to achieve the council’s wider objectives in terms of promoting social cohesion. Blackburn Museum has worked with a local Asian youth group, on a project entitled We Also Served, to document the experiences of Muslim servicemen in the British Indian army in the Second World War.

These policies are offered as helpful suggestions not required measures. We hope they will prove useful for councils wanting to do more for this important community.

This article was first published in C’llr magazine.