Veterans who have become homeless, or at risk of it, will be supported through an extra £1 million boost, the Communities Secretary, Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP announced today (20 March 2019). The money will help ensure those who have served their country have a roof over their heads and have the support they need once leaving the Armed Forces. The fund will be shared among the ten combined authorities and the Greater London Authority who will be able to use the funding to provide veterans with the bespoke support they need as they navigate civilian life.
Money could also be used to direct former soldiers to existing specialist support services on offer, such as access to supported housing and training for staff on mental health issues, including PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and how to support those former service personnel who may initially be reluctant to receive help.
Communities Secretary Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP said:
Our veterans play a vital role in keeping our country safe and many have dedicated their lives to the services. For those who fall on hard times and end up on the street, it is only right that we give them all the support they need to put a roof over their head.
Local authorities across the country already provide much needed support for veterans, but this boost will allow them to go further and ensure that more people have access to valuable services, such as housing advice or mental health support.
This additional funding goes hand in hand with the £1.2 billion which has been set aside to tackle all forms of homelessness, including £100 million for rough sleeping, helping ensure everyone has a safe and secure home to call their own, regardless of their background.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said:
The vast majority of those leaving the Armed Forces go on to lead fulfilling and rewarding lives, but it’s right that we support those who struggle.
One veteran on the street is one too many and I welcome today’s announcement on funding to address homelessness and rough sleeping.
This, along with the support we already provide through the Veteran Gateway, underlines our commitment to helping those who have served our country.
Last month, ministers confirmed over £19.5 million is to be shared among 54 projects across the country to help thousands of people who are homeless to secure their own home – through support such as paying deposits for a tenancy or putting down the first months’ rent. This will help vulnerable people secure a home in a property they may otherwise not have been able to access.
This work supports the ongoing government commitment to put an end to rough sleeping for good, through a number of initiatives set out in the £100 million backed Rough Sleeping Strategy. So far, over 1750 beds and 500 additional support staff jobs have been created, helping to get rough sleepers off the street and into a more permanent home. This will allow them access employment, benefits and the necessary mental health or addiction support services to rebuild their lives for good.
Serving personnel and veterans who need mental health care are not receiving the support promised in the Armed Forces Covenant. That needs to change, says Ruth Smeeth
We have a problem. It’s becoming received wisdom that people leave the armed forces broken and without the right support package in place. For the overwhelming majority of veterans, this simply isn’t true; they transition to civilian life as well-rounded, highly skilled individuals who contribute hugely to their community. But what is a concern is what’s in place for those people that do need support both during their service and after, how long they need to wait for help, how they can access continuing care pathways and who are supporting their families.
Unbelievably, at the crux of the matter is a clash between the Armed Forces Covenant and the NHS constitution. The covenant recognises that our veterans may have the right to special treatment if required (although no one has defined special treatment), but the NHS constitution states that those in the armed forces, reservists, their families and veterans are not disadvantaged in accessing health services in the area they reside. So we have a conflict – “special treatment” versus “not disadvantaged”.
Falling through the Gap
Regardless of the administrative battle, this means that veterans and their families have been falling through the gap, especially when we look at the issue of access to NHS mental health services. Last month, the Defence Select Committee published a report exploring Mental Health and the Armed Forces: Provision of Care. Our findings were stark and should unsettle every policymaker in parliament. If we truly believe that the men and women who volunteer to serve our country and keep us safe have a reasonable expectation that we will look after them both during and after their service, then we are failing.
For serving personnel, we found that two of the four MoD mental health centres were rated inadequate or needing improvement, and over half of all psychiatric posts are currently unfilled. The situation was little better for specialist veteran support, with veterans waiting up to 12 months for treatment after their initial assessment, allowing patients to deteriorate over that period to the point of acute distress for some. This situation was particularly dire in Northern Ireland. But we shouldn’t be surprised when across England, Scotland and Wales we are spending less than £10m per year on veterans’ mental health care. This alone is leading to a patient lottery, with excessive waiting lists and no single body in charge of an individual’s care pathway.
As shocking as these statistics are, and we must remember that behind every statistic is a family, I think the most shocking indictment on the current system is the fact that the MoD final ‘check-in’ with veterans is 12 months after discharge, when armed forces charities have been clear that Iraq and Afghanistan veterans typically don’t seek medical help for four years post discharge, for support related to their service.
So what do we need to do to ensure the Armed Forces Covenant is being applied in the way we intended? Well …
- Once assessed, veterans should be continually monitored during the wait for treatment to ensure that intervention is made to prevent cases from becoming acute.
- There needs to be a national, dedicated mental health centre, ideally co-located with the Defence and National Rehabilitation Centre which is currently being built at Stanford Hall in Leicestershire, which will oversee both acute cases but also coordinate long-term care pathways so veterans have the support they need at home.
- We also need to remember that the covenant applies to families too, and currently their specialised mental health provision is practically non-existent.
So there is work to be done and money to be spent but our armed forces personnel have been made promises which we now have to deliver.
Ruth Smeeth is Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent North and a member of the Defence Select Committee More here
Do you live near Sheffield and want to support Team UK as a volunteer?
Following the success of the Invictus Games in Sydney in 2018 and previous Games in Toronto, Florida and London, The Royal British Legion, Help for Heroes and the Ministry of Defence have designed a programme leading up to the next Invictus Games in The Hague in May 2020.
This celebrations of sports will culminate in the Team UK Invictus Games Trials in Sheffield from 22-26 July 2019, playing host to:
•A qualifying event for selection for the Invictus Games 2020. All athletes who wish to be considered for the Games in 2020 must attend the Trials.
•The UK national championship for wounded, injured and sick service personnel and veterans. Therefore, this event is also suitable for those who wish to compete in adaptive sports but have not wish to be selected for the Invictus Games in 2020.
We are excited to announce that there will be a full volunteering programme in support of the UK Team Trials. Volunteer roles will be across a range of workstreams, including ticketing, stewarding, information desk, field of play support and fundraising. Some roles require specific skills, while others are available to anyone regardless of their previous experience.
Volunteers must be available for the full week from 22-26 July 2019, which significantly increases the efficiency of the volunteer programme and reduces the load on support staff to keep re-training volunteers. Accommodation will not be provided as standard for volunteers, unless there is a valid reason to do so e.g. individual has a specific skill required for the Games. One meal will be provided per shift for each volunteer, in the form of a packed lunch.
If you would like to volunteer your time to support Team UK at this event, please complete the information on the below link, so that we can keep you informed with volunteers updates. This form registers your interest but doesn’t confirm that you will be able to volunteer at the Team UK Trials Sheffield 2019.
As most of you know, The Armed Forces and the Third Sector Military Charities are actively searching for improved means of identifying, treating and supporting past and current members of our armed forces, along with their families who are coping with the day to day challenges of PTSD.
AwarenessOne vital aspect of this challenge is to generate a greater awareness of the topic across the wider communities that can help support those servicemen, servicewomen and their families in achieving a better quality of life. The team at RBL Galanos House been invited to one such initiative; giving them an opportunity to learn more about PTSD, its effects on individuals and families; and how they can be supported.
ExpertiseMembers of the team at the Vamos Theatre in Worcester have already shared their expertise at RBL Galanos House, adding to the growing list of experts who make such a difference at this multi-award winning retirement home.
BRAVE FACE – Current touring showMASK MAKING WEEKEND for Veterans – FREE!! (second workshop in listing – please scroll down)Listening With Your Eyes workshop training for carersFinally, they had a knowledge sharing day at Vamos Theatre recently, which was a celebration of theatre venues becoming dementia friendly. You might be interested to read more about it..Take the time to have a look at the links above, you won’t be disappointed.Best regards,
A brand new initiative has been launched, offering a support network to wives, fiancées and cohabiting partners of serving or veteran British Armed Forces personnel reports Forces News
Forces Wives Community
The movement is called the Forces Wives Challenge (FWC), and the main aim is to “acknowledge the community of Forces Wives and partners as a group of resilient and dynamic women with careers, skill-sets and experiences of their own, that can be harnessed towards a common goal.
“As a team, working together to overcome a challenge, it will create purpose, teamwork, drive, ambition, strength and above all, support.” “Together we can achieve anything.”
This has all been the brainchild of Heather Sharp, who has experienced both sides of the coin, after herself serving ten years as an officer in the British Army. The struggles of being part of a dual-serving couple while trying to raise a young family led Heather to make the difficult decision to leave the Army. She said: “I’m embarrassed to say I had a preconceived stereotypical idea of what life would be like living on a married quarters patch, and I wondered if I would have anything in common or make friends.”
“Very quickly every preconceived idea was shattered, and on posting after posting I found a diverse, dynamic, and resilient group of women who had all made incredible sacrifices to support their partners’ careers in the Armed Forces.”
This got Heather thinking about what could be achieved if these groups of women worked together, and so the Forces Wives Challenge was born.
“By harnessing the skills and talents of this dynamic and resilient community to overcome an ambitious challenge, it will strengthen us as a team – a team with purpose which celebrates our drive, ambition, and, above all, support for each other.”
An ambitious challenge is exactly what the team set themselves for their flagship expedition because right now the ladies are ascending Ojos del Salado in Chile. As if climbing the world’s highest volcano wasn’t challenge enough, the team have also set themselves a second target – to raise £10,000 for The Royal British Legion (RBL). The RBL provides lifelong support to the Armed Forces Community, including partners and their family members, and it’s for this precise reason they are the FWC’s chosen charity – because of the ways in which The Legion helps to build community connections.
So, to summarise: this team of extraordinary women – with no previous high-altitude mountaineering experience between them – are currently bossing their way 6893m up the highest volcano in the world, while raising thousands of pounds for one of the most hardworking charities in the Forces community. Is it fate that they are aiming to summit the peak on International Women’s Day? We’ll leave that to you to decide…
A SNP MP has called on the UK Government to urgently amend immigration rules to allow the families of Commonwealth soldiers serving in the British Army to come to the UK. Drew Hendry MP was speaking on behalf of his constituent, Lance Corporal Dennis Omondi, originally from Kenya, whose daughter Ann was denied a visa to come and live with him.
“Commonwealth troops should be able to bring their kids to Britain – if they fight for us, they should be able to live with us”.
Immigration minister Caroline Noakes said she could not comment on the specific case but insisted the Government was sympathetic and recognises the “contributions and sacrifices made by Commonwealth members of the forces”. In February, the Home Secretary faced increasing pressure to change immigration rules so Commonwealth soldiers in the British Army could bring their families to the UK. Senior MPs called for serving Armed Forces personnel to be exempt from the minimum income threshold due to their service to the country.
Under current immigration rules, foreign workers must earn £18,600 to apply for their spouse to live in the UK. The minimum income requirement to bring over one child is £22,400 with an additional £2,400 for each child thereafter. A soldier’s basic pay after training is only £18,600 a year, forcing many to take on second jobs to afford to move their families to the UK.
It follows the scrapping of British residency requirements for Commonwealth citizens who wish to join the Armed Forces. The Ministry of Defence (MOD) removed the need for Commonwealth citizens to have lived in the UK for five years before applying for service. Applicants from nations including India, Australia, Canada and Fiji are now considered for all roles in the forces, without having lived in Britain.
Significant and Vital
Since 2016, a maximum of 200 Commonwealth recruits were allowed to apply for certain jobs without meeting a residency requirement. All other Commonwealth applicants who have lived in Britain for five years have been eligible to apply. In November, Forces News reported how the Armed Forces are struggling to recruit enough personnel to fill a shortfall in their ranks. There are currently over 6,000 personnel serving in the UK Armed Forces from foreign and Commonwealth countries, with more being recruited each year to fill technical and specialist roles. The Army Families Federation (AFF) has said: “Commonwealth members of our Armed Forces make up a significant and vital part of the UK’s defence capability and as a nation, we ask them to make significant sacrifices to do so.”
A new sculpture incorporating more than 4,000 replica bullets has been unveiled to mark the 75th anniversary year of D-Day. The creation, titled D-Day: Soldiers of Sacrifice has been created in tribute to the 4,414 Allied servicemen who lost their lives in the first 24 hours of the Allies’ invasion of Normandy.
The figure represents Denham Brotheridge, widely believed to be the first Allied serviceman to be killed by enemy action on D-Day, atop 4,414 bullets, representing his comrades in arms who fell in battle later that day. Lieutenant Brotheridge of D Company, 2nd Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, took part in a surprise raid on bridges, landing in occupied France via gliders with his men.
The 28-year-old was mortally wounded in the attack which secured the bridge at Benouville. Back home in Smethwick, Birmingham, his wife was pregnant with his daughter, Margaret Brotheridge. Now aged 75, she will accompany the sculpture of her father after its unveiling in Manchester today, as it goes on a national tour of the UK and Normandy ahead of official commemorations in June in Portsmouth. The soldier’s form is crouched down as if to throw a grenade, but instead he is releasing a dove; symbolising peace and acknowledging that the soldiers’ deaths were not in vain.
Funded by the National Lottery, it was commissioned by ‘The D-Day Story’ museum in Portsmouth, the UK’s only museum dedicated to Operation Overlord, the campaign to liberate Normandy from the Nazis, beginning on 6 June 1944. Welsh artist Alfie Bradley, best known for his Knife Angel made from 100,000 knives surrendered during amnesties, created the sculpture. He said: “This has been such a meaningful project, and I’ve loved working with The D-Day Story to create this lasting tribute to the heroes that gave their lives for us in World War Two.
“Den Brotheridge was 28, the same age I am now, when he died.
“I can’t even begin to imagine how terrifying it would have been to land on the beach in Normandy that day.
“The more I’ve read up on D-Day over the last few months, the more I realise how grateful we all should be for their heroic sacrifice.”
Jane Barnard from The D-Day Story museum said: “We’re thrilled to be commemorating the 75th year since the D-Day landings with such a poignant and meaningful sculpture.
“We have chosen locations close to the heart of Den and World War Two and it’s fantastic his daughter has been able to join us for the tour, her stories of her father are truly captivating and emotive.
“We hope everyone finds solace in the story of Den and the unbelievable amount of bravery all the servicemen showed during D-Day.”
The sculpture will be available to view on the following days:
- March 4: The Piazza, Media City, Salford.
- March 5: Liverpool Parish Church (Our Lady and Saint Nicholas).
- March 6: Villa Park, Birmingham.
- March 7: Waterloo Station, London.
- March 8: Bletchley Park, Bletchley.
- March 9: South Parade Pier, Portsmouth.
- March 10: Pegasus Beach Bridge, Normandy, France.
- March 11: The D-Day Story museum, Portsmouth.
At St. James’s Branch we would be delighted if you are interested in volunteering, whether you’re a member or not.
- Fundraise – we participate in the annual Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal and the more helpers we can attract, the more money we can raise!
- Participate in sponsored events – run a marathon, swim a mile, bake a cake, ride a bike – organise your own sponsored event and raise money for the British Legion. Find out more on the Royal British Legion website.
- Anything else – if you have an idea or a particular skill, or just want to lend a hand, please get in touch to discuss it.
St James’s Branch Members can:-
- Take part in all of the above.
In addition, join the St James’s Branch Management Committee, where you will have the opportunity to:-
- Shape the future of The Royal British Legion’s largest branch (circa 20k members) and influence the decision makers leading the UK’s largest Armed Forces Charity.
- Enhance your CV; employers appreciate the dedication and drive it takes to be a volunteer.
- Develop your interpersonal skills; debating, resolution and listening to all arguments/opinions have a major impact on your ability to understand new or different concepts.
- Be heard; new successes, initiatives and perspectives are the lifeblood of a successful team, your ideas will help.
- Learn; from veterans, business owners and charity workers, an appreciation of learning from history, taking the best ideas forward and finding new opportunities.
- Enjoy new friendships; our current team are a diverse bunch of characters, who, whilst taking their roles very seriously, never, take themselves too seriously!
We look forward to hearing from you, we particularly encourage applications from those of you who were born after 1987 (though not exclusively!)
Do contact us now to find out more about supporting the British Legion.
Read more about fundraising for the British Legion on the National website – click here.
I was watching D-Day veteran Ted Cordery on Good Morning Britain this week and was very moved by his story. He had joined up at 18 to serve on HMS Belfast, landing on Gold Beach on D-Day to witness atrocities like we cannot even imagine.
Aged 91, Ted is now about to embark on one, final journey back to the beaches of Normandy as part of the Royal British Legion’s 75th Anniversary of D-Day commemoration. They still have 100 places left for veterans who may like to make the historic journey and sail back to Normandy for one last time to pay their respects.
When the 50th Commemorations took place, I was lucky enough to accompany my late father, Ron, a veteran of the D-Day landings who fought at Sword Beach and also at Dunkirk and Arnhem. My Dad refused to wear his medals at the Drumhead Service on Southsea common, attended by The Queen, Prince Philip and Princess Diana as well as French and American heads of state such as Bill Clinton.
A very reserved man, he never liked to be ‘showy’ preferring others to take the credit instead. But he proudly marched, his head high and it was a moment I’ll never forget. Ten years later, I had the privilege to run Portsmouth City Council’s PR campaign for D-Day 60 and met many incredible veterans who had served. However, their number was dwindling even then.Now with D-Day 75 looming, the British Legion is asking if any former veterans would like to be involved in the crossing.
This will be the last veteran-attended D-Day commemoration before it passes from living memory into history and hearsay. So, if anyone reading this knows of any veterans who might find it cathartic and emotionally cleansing to pay their respects, please contact the Royal British Legion in order to reserve them a place. I am not glorifying war, far from it, but it moved me to tears to see Ted struggle with his emotions over his fallen comrades. Without their sacrifices, we wouldn’t have the freedom we take for granted today. Read more here
At the Annual Conference Committee meeting this week we discussed the Motions that many of you have raised in preparation for Annual Conference this year.
As you will all be aware there is a Charter Motion that has been put forward by the Board of Trustees this year, of which the full information is due to be provided to Branches in the upcoming March Circular.
The Committee felt that there was a lot of information to read and digest with regards this Charter Motion and concerns were raised that if we wait until later in March to send out this information, that some Branches may not have meetings scheduled in order to meet and discuss (e.g. Branches that meet every other month etc.).
Therefore we took the decision to send the Royal Charter Motion Pack to you all via email now. Please can you ensure that this is forwarded to your Branches.
Please note that a printed copy will continue to be provided as part of the March Circular.
I look forward to seeing many of you in Bournemouth.
Trustee and Chairman of the Conference Committee