The MOD and Hampshire County Council have joined forces to launch the Armed Forces Community Welfare Pathway
initiative in Hampshire to enable serving personnel, their families and veterans to receive the help, advice and support they need from the people best-placed to provide it.
Hampshire County Council is the second local authority to pilot the Welfare Pathway. Members of the Armed Forces Community will be able to access advice on their entitlements by calling Hantsdirect, the County Council’s contact centre, on 0845 603 5630. The Armed Forces Community will be able to get advice on everything from priority healthcare to housing and education, as well as link with Service and veterans’ charities and the Citizens Advice Bureau.
This is all supported by a single free national telephone number – 08000 223366 – that provides automated options for both in-Service and ex-Service personnel, their families and widows to use as an initial port of call, if uncertain of who to contact. It’s not intended to replace existing sources of advice, but it provides a safety net for those who are completely unaware of what is available.
As well as working with the Government and veterans’ charities to address the key issues affecting the lives of Service personnel and veterans, the County Council will join forces with its partners in the Hampshire Senate, who agreed together last Autumn that they would ensure additional support for the Armed Forces Community in Hampshire.
Veterans Minister Kevan Jones said:
“As part of our continued support for the Armed Forces Community, we are committed to improving how our Service men and women, their families and veterans can access help and advice about the things that are important to them. By making one phone call to Hantsdirect (0845 603 5630) or the national telephone number (08000 223366), the Armed Forces Community can access advice on what they are entitled to. The support that our people deserve is out there and we want to make sure that they can take full advantage of that. I thank Hampshire County Council for all their support.”
Councillor Ken Thornber, Leader of Hampshire County Council said:
“Service men and women and veterans are an important part of the wider Hampshire community and Hampshire County Council is immensely proud to be at the forefront of delivering local services to the Armed Forces Community. The Welfare Pathway builds on the initiatives the Council already has in place to provide support to the Armed Forces and ensure their families have access to services. The Pathway will also strengthen further the partnership between the Armed Forces and public services in Hampshire that has developed through the Hampshire Senate and the South East Super Garrison project.”
Rosemarie Ophaus, Acting Royal British Legion County Manager for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight said:
“As our role is to deliver Legion benevolence to the Service and ex-Service community, we very much welcome a coordinated approach for directing people towards, and helping them get access to, the welfare services to which they are entitled. These services are currently provided by a wide range of charities and government departments, so improving information and communication is always a positive step forward.”
Brigadier John Turner, Vice-President of the Hampshire Branch of the Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen’s Families Association – Forces Help said:
“SSAFA Forces Help is delighted to be involved with Government in developing the Welfare Pathway concept and welcomes this initiative, which aims to provide a seamless welfare service for serving and ex-serving personnel and their families through the use of a single national point of contact.”
Several other Local Authorities will establish similar pilot programmes across the UK. The intention is to roll out a best practice model to cover all areas.
Some of the benefits that Serving personnel, families and veterans can receive are:
- advice about access to NHS services,
- information about help for veterans with mental health problems,
- help and advice about education, skills and careers,
- affordable and social housing,
- help with transport including Blue Badges and concessionary transport,
- advice about, and access to, affordable childcare.
During the launch, Veterans Minister Kevan Jones will also present Councillor Thornber with a Veterans Badge. Councillor Thornber served in the Royal Army Medical Corps during two years’ National Service.
Notes to editors
1) For those who are not sure where to turn for advice, help and support can be accessed via a freephone National Point of Contact: 08000 223366. It is not intended to replace the existing sources of advice like Citizens Advice Bureaux, GPs, Government organisations or the Third Sector.
2) This initiative underpins the commitments set out in The Nation’s Commitment: Cross-Government Support to our Armed Forces, their Families and Veterans (www.mod.uk/spcp).
3) The Armed Forces Community includes Service Personnel, their families, widows and veterans.
4)An Armed Forces Champion will assist the Armed Forces Community resolve any problems they may experience in receiving their statutory entitlements, such as priority NHS treatment and affordable housing schemes.
5)Other local authorities signing up to this initiative include Wigan, Fife and North Yorkshire.
Source: © Ministry Of Defence.
How timely to come out with this initiative, cynical yes but a service that has been missing off the agenda for many years.
As a housing professional for 15 years with Local Authority and Housing Association strategic housing and front line homeless experience this service will require a strong champion. This is because homeless services within Councils already have what they call 'preventative homelessness measures'. Which in reality is a system and process that does not allow ex service people and their dependants to apply under homelessness because the barriers are; "I'm sorry you don't have a local connection", "I'm sorry but you are homelss, in priority need but you can source your own housing from the private sector".
The latter point is despite Homelessness legislation being altered in 2002 to allow service personnel to be treated as 'vulnerable and priority'. What the homelessness officer, team leader or manager may not know is that service personnel belong to a system that by and large does what it says and are law abiding citizens with high morals who is taught and it is ingrained to think of others first hence they are doing a fantastic job of hearts and minds in Afghanistan as they have done in othe rplaces around the world over the decades. Then when they approach the Council for accommodation the advisors who meet and greet them have good intentions but they are still informed "Sorry, we can't help you", when by a meaningful and pro-active change of policy driven by Central Government (CLG) they could.
To be fair to Councils homelessness teams, unless they have experience of service life they will not even know what the applicants facing them have gone through to be at the Councils offices. But these homeless officers are under pressure to determine single people or families housing status whilst having reduced funding.
Service personnel and their families/dependants are given access to the highest categories for allocation of housing for those that want to apply for it. For example Local Authority Choice based letting schemes should remove time barriers for qualifying periods to this group. This approach would also help the children of service families who have travelled their formative years and are now 18+. This would help them to gain access to a realistic chance of a property that offers security of tenure. Although service personnel/families are not 'Romanys' they are travellers. For many & the majority they may have only ever been housed in a 'licenced'property because that is what service personnel have access to.
It is not as if there would be a flood of applicants because rightly or wrongly even service families aspire to home ownership just like the rest of the 78% of the UK's property owning democracy'.