Written evidence submitted by Canon Peter Bruinvels CC to the Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill
By way of Introduction, I was until late February 2021, the Armed Forces Champion to 11 Infantry Brigade and HQ SE looking after and supporting 7 County Councils, 12 Unitary Authorities, and 55 Borough and District Councils – involving 74+ Elected Councillor Armed Forces Champions and 90+ Covenant Lead Officers. I held that role for 5 years.
Additionally, I am the Civilian-Military Liaison Adviser to both Surrey County Council and Kent County Council.
My remit today as it was when I gave oral evidence as an Expert Witness at the 1st Session of the Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill on 4 March 2021 is to give a Local Authority perspective in written evidence as to how I believe they will view this new Armed Forces Bill and Clause 8 in particular.
I have responded by giving answers to some of your questions as well as posing the following questions with my answers: -
Firstly, it is a resource issue and a resources (people) issue. You need dedicated and committed officers rather than additional funding. The Officers can be trained up.
It is the right approach!
Whatever an Local Authority does – it must consider the needs of the Armed Forces.
But most should be in a Code of Practice. Keep the legal bits to the bare minimum.
There is an existing Complaints Procedure, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsmen and at last Resort – Judicial Review (very expensive – starting at £50k just to look through the papers!).
Having reviewed the past 5 years – the main issues were Education – School Admissions and Transport – getting a paid-for place on the school bus.
Housing – getting on the housing list - a number of Housing Staff did not know the Local Connection requirement had gone.
Main Issue: TRAINING NEEDED
Judicial Review – defined as an explicit contravention of law. LAST RESORT
Has the Agency / Public Body/ LA broken the law? And if so – how do you prove it?
I have been asked on a number of occasions as to whether the Armed Forces Bill goes far enough.
It is good step forward as healthcare, education and housing are all parts of the Covenant that impacts on Family Life.
Not to say, those are the only areas the Covenant covers.
E.g., Spousal Employment when they have gaps in their CVs – because of frequent moves.
Extra Support for ex-service personnel seeking employment = Guaranteed Interviews and Mentor / CV writing – most have only had one interview in their lives – when they joined up!
*These could be in the Code of Practice as part of best practice.
* Employment is also covered in the MoD Defence Employers Recognition Scheme and that could be used to ‘encourage’ Local Authorities and other businesses to have ‘military friendly’ employment policies such as 10 days Annual Leave for Reservist Duties as a Gold award holder. A nudge rather than legislation to get employment issues on the Agenda.
The bodies and persons to whom the Bill should apply are Local Authorities; Housing Associations; Housing Officers, General Practitioners, NHS Trusts / CCGs, Private Schools, Academies and Governors as they all exercise public functions in key policy areas.
It is not just Local Authorities – it is all about ‘partnership working’ with the Military as equal partners.
Working across the devolved administrations, I have not seen any disparities between the Regions and I do not anticipate that to be the case once the Bill is enacted. Having travelled across the UK from INVERNESS to PLYMOUTH and from SHROPSHIRE to COLCHESTER / SOUTHEND. I have worked with both Wales and Scotland’s Devolved Assemblies and it has worked really well – bar a translation issue in Wales and who would fund it!
Every Local Authority has signed the Covenant and the majority do understand its implications, duties and requirements under the Armed Forces Covenant.
– but not all are as active in implementing it and not all have Armed Forces Champions – although the SE does for each of their Local Authorities. Some even have Deputies, as well!
Under Forces Connect SE, a training and awareness raising programme funded by the Armed Forces Covenant Fund, in total I trained 380 Elected Councillors; 250 AFCs and 3400 Front Line and Contact Centre Staff and they all wanted to help the Military, Veterans, Ex-Service Personnel and their Families.
Some Local Authorities are more aware of the Covenant than others – especially if there is a Military presence in their Area! Most Local Authorities have both Ex-Service / Veterans and Cadets living in their Area. Indeed, some Local Authorities employ them, as well.
The National Census in March 2021 with its new question as to whether one served or was serving will help Local Authorities better understand and identify their Military footprint.
Armed Forces Champions were all keen to work cross-departments with their trained Covenant Lead Officers and most report back to the Leader as it is a PUBLIC APPOINTMENT. The local Civilian-Military Partnership Boards (CMPBs) function really well.
There are practical issues and suggestions as to how to both implement and meet the aims of the Bill. But it will be up to each Council to decide how it delivers its Covenant commitments.
Such guidance needs to be subject to consultation with the main stakeholders – Local Authorities – ideally before Royal Assent and either way before the Bill is enacted.
Training tools - advice – best practice – easy access – use case studies – sources of training
Due regard on Education, Health and Housing and to show what it means in practice.
This guidance needs to explain how service life affects the armed forces and how councils can ensure these services consider the needs of the armed forces community.
Councils need to ensure their policies are flexible enough to reflect the reality of life and daily living in the armed forces.
*Councils will need to show that they have taken the guidance into account or be prepared to evidence why they have chosen to depart from it.
It will help all 407 Local Authorities across the UK to deliver the Armed Forces Covenant and promote the main issues of Education, Healthcare and Housing affecting the Armed Forces Community.
It will help increase awareness and understanding of the unique obligations and nature of service facing the Armed Forces.
It will help further improve the overall delivery of public services in relation to the Armed Forces Community
We recognise that there quite a LACK OF AWARENESS about the Military and their way of life – even if they are based down the road in a Local Barracks!
“It will help all Local Authorities understand the needs and issues affecting the Armed Forces Community”.
Elected Councillor Armed Forces Champions will play a key role in championing issues for the Armed Forces community as they will work with officers and ACROSS-DEPARTMENTS and report back to the relevant Council Leader/Portfolio Holder.
MUST MANAGE THE EXPECTATIONS OF THE WHOLE ARMED FORCES COMMUNITY, especially those serving and their families.
This could be done through briefing Unit Welfare Officers (‘UWOs’) and Barracks on what is in the Bill and what it means.
And also, what is NOT in the Bill!!!
In Education, Housing and Health, the Armed Forces Community will hopefully no longer be disadvantaged because of moving around so much through their Military Service.
Hands-on and on-line bespoke training will be needed so that Local Authority staff will understand the life of the Military and that they are highly mobile as well as understanding what the Armed Forces Covenant means in terms of the services that they provide.
Issues that the training should cover include: - 1st choice schools (a school is guaranteed, not necessarily the 1st choice); School places; home to school transport; service pupil premium £310; pupil passports – so don’t repeat syllabus!; MoD are now working with LEAs to try and move service personnel at the start of the school year – rather than in-year. E.g., The Guards Corridor in 11X / London District – Hounslow – Windsor – Camberley
Housing – NO LONGER REQUIRE ‘LOCAL CONNECTION’ [Major change, not all front-line / contact centre staff know, even now!]
Get immediately on waiting list; affordable and rented housing; broken down relationships.
Affordable Housing; ‘Stable’ rather than ‘Social’ Housing – the terminology matters to the Military.
Health – Access to GPs; Dentists for the whole family; medical records passed across.
To their advantage – the Armed Forces Community will benefit greatly and not be disadvantaged!
Public bodies: Front Desk and Contact Centre staff will finally understand their issues.
Local Authorities will become more used to dealing with the Military and with the right training, they will be able to help them. They will also get to understand that the Military are unused to asking for help. The Military do not know or understand the difference in Parish, Town, Borough, District, Unitary or County Councils. Bluntly – why should they?!
There is no need to enforce – rely on element of good will and best practice.
I would encourage a light touch approach - demonstrate due regard has been taken.
Give good examples of best practice in the Annual Covenant Report which is debated annually in both Houses of Parliament.
Use the MoD Employers Recognition Scheme – to NURTURE and NUDGE to get Local Authorities to ‘conform.
Use Charter Marks as good ‘Military Friendly’ Employers Kite Mark
The Armed Forces Covenant is like an INSURANCE POLICY = AA / RAC
Most of the Armed Forces Community do not need it – but they still need to know about it! It can offer them reassurance and the felling that they are valued by society.
No. The Legislation should not mandate specific public service delivery outcomes or advantageous treatment of the Armed Forces Community. It is designed to ensure that the relevant decision-makers consider the issues facing the Armed Forces Community in these key areas that impact of their day-to-day lives.
The end result: We will see a LEVELLING UP
As I see it – the proposed legislation is there to ensure that Local Authorities and their staff consider the issues facing the Armed Forces Community in these three key areas of Education, Housing and Health that impact on their day-to--day lives.
NO LONGER A POST CODE LOTTERY
Canon Peter Bruinvels’s Sees THE BILL’S ULTIMATE AIM: -
“To have a fully integrated Armed Forces Community with Society – working together in partnership in support of each other”.
How do you avoid showing positive advantage by removing disadvantage?
In my Oral Evidence Session, I offered Members various documents which I have confirmed with the Select Committee Chairman – Col James Sunderland MP
That Parliament makes the Armed Forces Bill easy for Local Authorities to implement – rather than through enforcement – so it becomes part of a council’s everyday practice.
Canon Peter BRUINVELS CC
Armed Forces Champion and Covenant Lead
All-Party Armed Forces Covenant Legislation Parliamentary Group (APPG)
Civilian-Military Liaison Adviser to both Surrey CC and Kent CC
The Profile: -
A Member of the Executive/Cabinet, or Chairman of an appropriate Scrutiny Committee, or a Member with an interest in the Armed Forces community.
Some Armed Forces experience would be an advantage.
Appointed annually by Council (on the recommendation of the Executive/Cabinet) to emphasise the importance the Council places on the role.
The Role: -
To raise the profile and needs of the Armed Forces community (serving personnel, both regular and reserve, their families, veterans and Cadets), internally and externally with the County and the Borough/District council.
To keep informed of all relevant developments through attendance at the annual conference, seminars and Task Groups, where appropriate.
To work closely with the senior member of County/Borough/District staff, who are appointed as Armed Forces Covenant Officers, with particular reference to the Council’s obligations undertaken through the Armed Forces Covenant.
To ensure close liaison and involvement on all military ceremonial matters in which the Mayor/Chairman is involved. (e.g. ranging from Armed Forces Day flag raising, attendance at local Armed Forces events, to Freedom Marches).
Regular liaison with the Civic Secretary to ensure that all forthcoming military ceremonial events are included in the Civic Diary and County Armed Forces Calendar.
To keep the local Member/s of Parliament informed of the activity and issues within the County/Borough/District in relation to the Armed Forces community on at least a quarterly basis.
To encourage the formation of local Armed Forces Covenant Panels to:
To form positive working relationships with the local Task Force Commander and the other district and borough councils within their area of responsibility (District and Borough councils) and their Regional Brigade HQ (County Council) to better understand and address the needs of the Armed Forces Community within the context of local authority roles and responsibilities.
To work with the Regional RFCA to engage with key local businesses to promote the Armed Forces Covenant, the Ministry of Defence Employer Recognition Scheme, the employment of Reservists and the appointment of Cadet Force Adult Volunteers.
To develop links and support local Cadet units by acting as the key link with the local authority, and to look to provide local ceremonial, remembrance and volunteering opportunities.
To sponsor an Annual Report to the Executive/Cabinet/Local or Joint Committee detailing the Council’s activities and achievements over the past 12 months in respect of the obligations to the Covenant.
The Profile: -
A reasonably senior Officer of an appropriate Department such as Democratic Services, Community Partnerships, Community Engagement or Strategic Policy with an interest in the Armed Forces Community.
No previous Armed Forces experience is required.
Appointed by the Chief Executive, his or her Nominee or Head of Department to emphasise the importance the Council places on the role.
The Role: -
To help raise the profile and needs of the Armed Forces Community (serving personnel, both regular and reserve, their families, veterans and ex-service personnel and Cadets), internally and externally within the County and the Borough/District council.
To keep informed of all relevant developments through attendance at the annual conference, briefing and refresher seminars and Task Groups, where appropriate.
To work closely with the nominated Elected Councillor Armed Forces Champion (AFC) and his or her Deputy (where appointed), who are appointed at the Annual Meeting, with particular reference to the Council’s obligations undertaken through the Armed Forces Covenant.
To help ensure with the AFC close liaison and involvement on all military ceremonial matters with the Civic Secretary in which the Mayor/Chairman is involved. (e.g. ranging from Armed Forces Day flag raising, attendance at local Armed Forces events, Reserves Day, to Freedom Marches).
To regularly liaise with the Civic Secretary to ensure that all forthcoming military ceremonial events are included in the Civic Diary and County Armed Forces Calendar.
To prepare briefs for the AFC to keep the local Member/s of Parliament informed of the activity and issues within the County/Borough/District in relation to the Armed Forces community on at least a termly basis.
To act as Secretary and encourage with the AFC the formation of local Armed Forces Covenant Panels to:
To form with the AFC, positive working relationships with the local Task Force Commander and the other district and borough councils within their area of responsibility (District and Borough councils) and 11 Infantry Brigade SE (County Council) to better understand and address the needs of the Armed Forces Community within the context of local authority roles and responsibilities.
To work with the Regional RFCA to engage with key local businesses to promote the Armed Forces Covenant, the Ministry of Defence Employer Recognition Scheme, the employment of Reservists and the appointment of Cadet Force Adult Volunteers within their Local Authority.
To develop links and support local Cadet units by acting as the key link at the local authority, and to look to provide local ceremonial, remembrance and volunteering opportunities working in partnership with the AFC.
To help jointly prepare an Annual report to the Annual Meeting of Council, Executive/Cabinet/Local or Joint Committee for the AFC detailing the Council’s activities and achievements over the past 12 months in respect of the obligations to the Covenant, identifying lessons learned and best practice.
To ensure the setting up and maintaining of an Armed Forces Covenant website detailing all activities in support of the Armed Forces Community with contact details within the Local Authority.
To promote Forces Connect South East (FCSE) and its training packages including the ‘Forces Connect’ ‘App and to ensure induction training for all new staff members and full training for all Front Line and Contact Centre Staff as well as Service Champions through the use of the LGA Knowledge Hub resource
To consider preparing and issuing electronically ‘military friendly’ One Stop Shop Leaflets detailing all points of contact, relevant to their Local Authority area, as well as encouraging the use of social media to promote the Local Authority’s support for the Armed Forces Community.
To monitor how schools in the area (where it is the responsibility of the LA / County Council and Unitary Authority) spend the Service Pupil Premium and on what
To review HR policies to ensure that service personnel and their spouses are not disadvantaged by virtue of their work and involvement within the Armed Forces Community.
Consideration should also be given for time off for Reservists with an appropriate Reserves Policy and also time off for those staff wishing to be Cadet Adult Volunteers
To consider offering an Employee Mentoring Scheme for all ex-service personnel joining the relevant Local Authority, providing each new member a ‘buddy’ with military experience
To ensure that the Voting Arrangements take the Armed Forces Community into consideration including helping service personnel register as service voters (valid for 5 years) and polling stations on or near to bases become more accessible.
CANON PETER BRUINVELS CC
Welcome, Aims and Objectives
The Armed Forces Covenant - MoD definition
What is the Armed Forces Covenant?
The Armed Forces Covenant is a promise by the nation ensuring that those who serve or who have served in the armed forces, and their families, are treated fairly.
“To those who proudly protect our nation, who do so with honour, courage, and commitment, the Armed Forces Covenant is the nation’s commitment to you”.
It is a pledge that together we acknowledge and understand that those who serve or who have served in the armed forces, and their families, should be treated with fairness and respect in the communities, economy and society they serve with their lives.
What is being done?
The covenant focusses on helping members of the armed forces community have the same access to government and commercial services and products as any other citizen.
This support is provided in a number of areas including:
Who is involved?
The Covenant supports serving personnel, service leavers, veterans, and their families. And is fulfilled by the different groups that have committed to making a difference.
Civilian-Military Partnership Board - Surrey slide as an example
To provide a strategic link within partner organisations with regard to the Armed Forces Covenant
To give strategic direction in order to strengthen links between communities and the Military
To champion the Armed Forces and honour the commitment given by the men and women of the Armed Forces
To review the work of the Armed Forces Covenant on an annual basis
To acknowledge and promote the value role Reservists play within the community
Encourage recognition and remembrance of the role played by the Armed Forces
Work collaboratively with the task groups and act as final arbiter
Elected Councillor Armed Forces Champion
ONCE YOU ARE APPOINTED
1. How were you appointed?
2. How were you recruited?
3. Did you have any links / an interest in the Military?
4. Was it at the Annual Meeting of Council?
5. Are you aware that the Military view your role as a Public Appointment?
6. Have you seen the Armed Forces Elected Councillor Job Description?
7. Do you know your Armed Forces Covenant Officer?
8. Does your Council have an Armed Forces website up to date?
9. Does your Council issue an Armed Forces Newsletter?
10. Have you checked with Housing about the ending of the Local Connection criteria?
11. Have you considered a Covenant Action Plan?
12. If a Unitary / County – does your Council monitor how the Service Pupil Premium is spent?
13. Have you checked that the Military Personnel / Bases are on your Electoral Roll?
14. Have you considered mentoring Service Personnel seeking employment?
15. Have you considered Military Spousal Employment?
16. Do you know the needs of the Armed Forces Community?
17. Have you met your fellow Armed Forces Champions?
18. Have you met your Task Force Commander and how often?
19. Have you identified one key lead Community Engagement Event / Activity?
20. Have you linked up to a local Reserve Centre / Reservists?
21. Are you linked into Cadet Units / Detachments?
22. Have you been present at a Cadet Annual Inspection?
Armed Forces Champions for the County Council and Borough and District Councils in Surrey
The Profile: -
A Member of the Executive/Cabinet, or Chairman of an appropriate Scrutiny Committee, or a Member with an interest in the Armed Forces community.
Some Armed Forces experience would be an advantage.
Appointed annually by Council (on the recommendation of the Executive/Cabinet) to emphasise the importance the Council places on the role.
The Military Presence
Map of the Area
Service Charities – COBSEO
Forces Connect South East
How you see your role as an AFC
Questions and Answers
As Chairman of the Surrey Civilian-Military Partnership Board (SCMPB), I have great pleasure in welcoming you to today’s first ever on-line Surrey Armed Forces Covenant Conference.
Following our last hugely successful conference with Lt-Gen Richard Nugee at ATC Pirbright, we will this year be looking at ‘The Power of Partnership’ – hearing especially about the joint working with the military during our response to COVID-19. We will hear how the county has adapted to support the armed forces community be it as military spouses, service children or with veterans’ hubs.
We will of course continue to promote the use of our Forces Connect App. We also have the MoD Covenant Team update us as to where the new Armed Forces Covenant Legislation is in the Parliamentary process. A packed three hours for us all!
I am pleased to present to you our draft annual report which covers activity from a wide range of partners across Surrey over the period of 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021. Please do email any further examples of achievements for inclusion to email@example.com by 31 March 2021.
Despite COVID-19, this has been another successful year for the SCMPB as we have continued to support Surrey’s armed forces community. This has been made possible by great partnership working with 11 Infantry Brigade and HQ SE, with our HM Lord-Lieutenant, the Borough and District Councils, the Police and Crime Commissioner, Surrey Fire and Rescue Service, Service Charities, businesses and with all our partners from Health, Education and Employment.
Every year we develop new initiatives and this year is no exception. We have further developed and sustained new and existing veteran hubs and drop-ins. Following the creation of the first Veterans Hub at Guildford Fire Station, we are delighted that Woking and Fordbridge fire stations will follow suit, once restrictions allow. This approach has attracted national interest and is being replicated in fire stations within Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Kent with more counties to follow. Because of the pandemic, the planned pilot to register recruits at ATC Pirbright as service voters with the local authority of their choice has been delayed until April 2021. However, this initiative also continues to attract the interest of both the Electoral Commission and the Cabinet Office.
The Forces Connect South East (FCSE) legacy proves to be of lasting value. FCSE, a two-year project led by Surrey County Council with the aim of making it easier for members of the armed forces community to access consistent advice and sources of support continues. The Forces Connect app is going from strength to strength with over 9,300 downloads, and the project has provided training nationally to more than 7,500 staff and over 280 elected councillor Armed Forces Champions. We were proud to be runner-up in this year’s Soldiering On ‘Working Together’ Awards, sponsored by Forces in Mind Trust.
When you have read this report, I hope you will feel, as I do, justly proud of all that we have achieved. We are working together and empowering each other to better deliver the Armed Forces Covenant for all members of the armed forces community in Surrey and beyond. We are absolutely determined that they will never be disadvantaged as a result of their service to our Nation.
In conclusion, I would like to advise you that I will be standing down as Chairman of our Board in May 2021, when I will also step down as a County Councillor. I have been delighted to serve as Chairman of the Board for 4 years and I would like to thank all members for their support and dedication. It has been a real privilege to have worked with so many committed people in partnership with the military across Surrey and beyond. Surrey has achieved much and I feel proud to have played my small part in our success story.
Chairman of Surrey Civilian Military Partnership Board
The Surrey Civilian-Military Partnership Board and partners have continued to work hard to support our armed forces community, despite the extra challenges brought about by the Covid19 pandemic. This report sets out a summary of some of these achievements in implementing the Armed Forces Covenant within Surrey. The Armed Forces Covenant is a promise by the Nation ensuring that those who serve or have served in the British Armed Forces, and their families, are treated fairly. All Surrey local authorities have signed the Armed Forces Covenant and appointed an elected councillor Armed Forces Champion and Covenant Lead Officer to be key points of contact and to take forward the Covenant locally to help ensure that the armed forces community does not face disadvantage compared to any other citizen when accessing public services.
On 19 March 2020, Surrey Local Resilience Forum declared a major incident in relation to Covid-19 and established a response structure to help manage the impact of the pandemic within the County. From the outset, 11 Infantry Brigade embedded military planners within the key teams dealing with response, who helped establish a number of new processes to address the pandemic. These included creating a food distribution hub to support vulnerable residents who were shielding and unable to access food supplies, setting up temporary mortuaries to manage the increase in number of deaths, establishing a PPE distribution hub, helping set up the mobile testing units and establishing the mass vaccination centres.
South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SECAmb) also received support from a small cohort of military personnel who worked alongside ambulance staff during the winter to respond to patients as the service faced increased pressure.
The Trust welcomed the support which followed a request to the Ministry of Defence, approved under the Military Aid to Civil Authorities (MACA) principles.
An initial group of 36 personnel from the Royal Logistic Corps received training and assisted the service by pairing up with a SECAmb clinician for a shift to drive an ambulance. The cohort was based out of the Trust’s Gatwick and Polegate operational areas.
Proposed Armed Forces Covenant Legislation
The Armed Forces Covenant is a promise by the nation ensuring that those who serve or who have served in the Armed Forces, and their families, are treated fairly, and will not be disadvantaged in accessing public services by their military service. It also allows for special provision for those who have sacrificed the most, such as the bereaved and injured. The Government proposes to introduce legislation to increase awareness and improve delivery of the Covenant in key areas that are fundamental to a good life, whilst retaining the ability of service providers to honour the Covenant in the best way to suit local needs. The focus of the proposed legislation is around having due regard for the armed forces community in the areas of public housing, education and healthcare. At the request of the Ministry of Defence (MoD), 11 Brigade held a series of focus groups made up of Armed Forces Champions and Covenant Lead Officers, which included Surrey County Council, to consider the draft proposals and make recommendations to the MoD on the key issues in these areas, as well as examples of best practice. In March 2021, Canon Peter Bruinvels was called as an Expert Witness to brief MPs on the Select Committee of The Armed Forces Bill on the many examples of the best practice that Surrey County Council already undertook in partnership with the Armed Forces through its Surrey CC Civilian-Military Partnership Board without the need for any legislation in the fields of Education, Health and Housing. He also spoke very positively on the role of Armed Forces Champions and commended their appointment and the work undertaken by them which definitely makes a difference.
Surrey’s Civilian-Military Partnership Board is considered a national exemplar by the MoD as it is proactive, engaging and delivering improvements to the armed forces community. During the year, it has provided advice and support to other authorities including Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and East Sussex.
In addition to the countywide Surrey Civilian-Military Partnership Board, Woking, Spelthorne, Guildford and Surrey Heath borough councils have all established local covenant panels in partnership with local units to implement the Armed Forces Covenant at a local level and to plan remembrance events.
11 Brigade continues to support partnership working locally with the local authorities through direct work and by working with the local Task Force Commanders at Army Training Centre (Pirbright) and 1st Battalion the Irish Guards.
During autumn 2020, 2nd Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment moved to Pirbright from Weeton Barracks in Lancashire, where they had been fortunate to enjoy a period of relative stability for the past 10 years. For many, Weeton Barracks had been home for a significant period of time and indeed some of the personnel had never been permanently based elsewhere. Their new home - Elizabeth Barracks in Pirbright had been vacant for some time and as such it has been stripped of many of its former welfare facilities. The Battalion has since applied for the NAAFI Fund and await the final response. The fund will be used to directly support the soldiers’ and families in Pirbright by vastly improving the HUB and Contact House.
The Move with the families went very well despite many having to self-isolate the day of the move; this meant parts of the plan had to be re-written delaying some families by two weeks. The schools were very accommodating with the constant changes in dates and have supported the families well. To date, the children have settled in very well, this been aided by specialist local agencies working alongside the families with children that need that little extra support. At the time the Battalion moved, Guildford Borough Council was a Tier 3 area which prevented many from exploring the new location. Hopes for post-lockdown are positive, many are looking forward to seeing what their new home location has to offer.
The Armed Forces Covenant Grant Fund awarded ATC(P) a grant of £74,140 for a project entitled “Creating positive outcomes through play”. With the ongoing impact of Covid 19 the renewed delivery target start date is September 2021. The project will be delivered in partnership with Guildford Borough Council and seeks to address play needs of service children with their social, physical and emotional needs being supported. It will be delivered over a 3-year period and has a four-tiered approach including weekly outdoor Play rangers sessions at Beech Grove play area Pirbright, a holiday playscheme, youth workshops and family fun days. The activities will be free of charge as financial constraints are often a barrier for service families.
A number of smaller grants have been submitted to the Armed Forces Covenant NAAFI Fund for projects to improve the quality of life for serving personnel and their families living at ATC(P) the results will be published in March 2020 and we are hopeful that they will be approved.
Surrey’s annual Armed Forces Covenant Conference was held online this year due to the pandemic. The event was again a huge success with over 165 delegates attending. They heard from a range of speakers about the how public authorities and the voluntary and community sectors worked together with the military in the response to Covid. This session was led by Steve Owen-Hughes, Chairman of Surrey’s Local Resilience Forum and Surrey’s Chief Fire Officer. The second part of the conference considered the new Armed Forces Covenant legislation, local military priorities and improving connections with the armed forces community. This included an inspirational presentation from an army spouse employed by Gold Employer Recognition Scheme award holder KBR.
The Forces Connect mobile app was established using funding from the Armed Forces Covenant Fund. During the year that funding came to an end and Surrey County Council entered into a new partnership with The Shots Foundation, the charitable arm of Aldershot Football Club, who kindly agreed to sponsor the app for the next two years. During the year, the number of users continued to grow with over 9,500 downloads and 19 regions on board. The app has continued to develop during the year and now includes Nepali translation to support our Gurkhas to access help and support. Once restrictions allow, a formal relaunch of the app will take place at RMA Sandhurst.
During discussions with some members of the armed forces community, it became apparent that some serving personnel did not feel connected enough to the local community to participate in elections. One survey showed that only 46% of respondents declared that they were on the Electoral Roll with even less saying they would exercise their right to vote. It was agreed between Guildford Borough Council and the Commanding Officer at the Army Training Centre (Pirbright) to support a twelve-month pilot to assist recruits to register as a service voter with the local authority of their choice. This pilot, which was delayed because of the pandemic, is due to begin in April 2021. This has attracted considerable interest from both the Cabinet Office and the Electoral Commission as well as other training bases around the country. Once registered, the service vote is valid for 5 years and will enable them to vote by post from anywhere in the world.
Surrey Military Appeals Committee continued to meet remotely during the past 12 months. Chaired by Mr Michael More-Molyneux – HM Lord-Lieutenant of Surrey, it has Col John Baynham OBE – Deputy Commander 11 Infantry Brigade SE, Shahid Azeem DL - the High Sheriff of Surrey, Dame Penelope Keith DL and Cllr Peter Martin – Chairman of SCMPB amongst its lead members. During the past 12 months, it has received top level reports and briefings from 11 Infantry Brigade and HQ SE as well as from the Chairman of Surrey Civilian-Military Partnership Board and from both ABF The Soldiers’ Charity Surrey and from Surrey Royal British Legion. As well as supporting the wider work of the Military and service charities in the County, it has campaigned to increase the speed at which Capita recruit into the Military. It also plays a leading role in ceremonial events including Armed Forces Day Flag-Raising and maintains a Military Events Diary and as well as allocating Service Deputy-Lieutenants to support particular ceremonial events.
Surrey’s Civilian-Military Liaison Advisor has been appointed in a personal capacity to the All-Party Armed Forces Covenant Parliamentary Group as its Armed Forces Champion and Covenant Lead Adviser and is able to share many examples of best practice from Surrey. This has included promotion of the Forces Connect app and associated training materials. In March 2021, Canon Peter Bruinvels was an Expert Witness to the Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill highlighting the effective role of Surrey’s Civilian-Military Partnership Board, its best practice and the very effective role played by Armed Forces Champions.
As a major employer, Surrey County Council proactively supports its workforce. For prospective employees its welcoming culture is clearly set out to members of the armed forces community, which is demonstrated through updated webpages and promotion of the Gold Employers Recognition Scheme logo on all job adverts. For new starters, the updated induction process highlights Surrey’s commitment, support available and positive HR policy, which not only covers Reservists (both training and mobilisation), but also includes ex-service personnel, spouses of serving and reservist personnel, Cadet Force Adult Volunteers and reservists from other nations.
Reserves Day 2020 saw Surrey County Council release a video via social media praising the work of Surrey’s Reserve Forces. The video featured Surrey’s Chief Executive, Chairman, Leader, Portfolio Holder, Armed Forces Champion, Chief Fire Officer as well as three of Surrey’s reservists. They thanked those within the Reserve Forces for the commitment to both Surrey County Council and the Nation and highlighted the huge range of transferrable skills that they bring to their civilian career.
Three of Surrey’s reservists have been mobilised over the last 18 months. One colleague was deployed in Iraq to support training to Kurdish and Iraqi Forces, whilst two further colleagues were deployed to support the response to Covid19. One of these was embedded within the Surrey Local Resilience Forum to support the response planning whilst the other was one of 120 Reserve Soldiers mobilised from 4PWRR as part of the Covid Support Force tasked to set up and run Mobile Testing Units.
In summer of 2020, Woking Borough Council was proudly awarded the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme gold award, the first Surrey district or borough council to achieve this prestigious award. Woking’s gold status reflects its huge commitment and support for the armed forces following the signing of the Armed Forces Covenant in 2012 and follows on from their silver award in 2016. Their commitment is demonstrated through a range of actions and initiatives both internally focussed within the council, as well as externally, some of which is highlighted below. Surrey County Council acted as mentor to them.
Woking has recently reviewed its Reservist Policy and Housing Allocation Policy and encourages job applications from the armed forces community as well as promoting opportunities for staff to become reservists. They ensure staff are trained on the needs of the armed forces community by providing training to frontline staff as well as through the induction process.
Externally Woking actively promotes awareness, recognition and remembrance throughout the borough and following awarding Freedom of the Borough to ATC (Pirbright) in 2017, a freedom parade is held in the town centre every two years. Following its restoration in 2015, the Peace Garden at the Muslim Burial Ground in Horsell, which was once the final resting place of 19 Muslim soldiers from the Great War and a further eight casualties of the Second World War, is now a significant heritage site for Woking. The site recognises the contribution of soldiers from all parts of the world who gave the ultimate sacrifice and provides a focal point for annual acts of commemoration.
Woking also actively supports local veterans across the borough and has been instrumental in enabling the relocation of the Veterans Hub to Woking Fire Station and promoting referrals to RBL and SSAFA Surrey.
During the year Spelthorne Borough Council further increased its support to the armed forces community and has committed to offering an additional 10 days paid leave for Reservists to enable them to undertake training commitments. In addition, recognising the hugely beneficial transferable skills that ex-service personnel have, their HR team has established links with the Career Transition Partnership advertising council positions on their jobs portal for those leaving Her Majesty’s Armed Forces.
In recognition of their endeavours the Ministry of Defence saw fit to award Spelthorne Borough Council the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme silver award. They have now set their sights on achieving the gold standard and will endeavour to work with partners in the Public and Private Sector through 2021 to become an advocate and champion of good practice. Surrey County Council acted as mentor to them.
As a Ministry of Defence Employer Recognition Scheme Gold Award holder, Surrey County Council is co-chairman of the South East Group, which gives advice, mentoring and support to other organisations, especially local authorities - developing their relationship with Defence across Surrey and beyond. This year, Surrey acted as mentor to Woking Borough Council and as “critical friend” to both Oxfordshire County Council and West Sussex County Council advising and supporting them in their three successful applications for gold status. Surrey County Council is a very active committee member of the National Gold Awards Association and regularly participates in the annual Defence Relationship Management Conference in Westminster.
Surrey CC is a key member of the South East Regional Employers Engagement Group during the year delivered a joint presentation with Hampshire County Council on how it advocates on behalf of the Armed Forces through its day-to-day work.
Lt Col Shamus Kelly has taken over from Lt Col Rob Sandford as Commanding Officer HQ Regt ATC(Pirbright) and will remain as the Task Force Commander for Woking and Guildford Borough Councils and a member of the Surrey Civilian-Military Partnership Board.
Training at the Army Training Centre (Pirbright) was paused in March 2020 during the first national lockdown but resumed in mid-May initially at 50% capacity working up to a full intake. Training is being conducted in a Covid 19 secure environment with recruits required to stay on camp for the duration of their course. The length of the training course has been reduced by two weeks to 12 weeks but will revert to 14 weeks from April 2021.Training is challenging at times but instructors have adapted well and ATC(P) is on track to meet target numbers of trained recruits.
Currently no families are attending Pass Off Parades due to Covid 19 restrictions however, a live streaming of the event is available for families to view and updates and photographs of the recruits’ progress throughout the course have been published on social media which has been welcomed.
Looking to the future, plans are being implemented to enable ATC(P) to expand and become the British Army Soldiers Academy. In order to achieve the full potential ATC(P) will work with local authorities and stakeholders and explore areas such as utilising joint facilities.
The Schools Alliance for Excellence (SAfE) is commissioned to deliver School Improvement on behalf of Surrey County Council. Within this remit, SAfE has mechanisms to monitor the outcomes of service children as well as signposting schools to opportunities which may support the specific needs of this small but distinct group of learners in Surrey.
Work is ongoing to focus support for service children on language and literacy to help increase attainment levels. A model to achieve this was launched with schools in September 2020 when schools were asked to complete an audit to highlight trends and showcase successful interventions. A follow up will be held with schools after a 12-month period to look at added value. In addition, a self-evaluation tool was issued to schools looking at different groups of learners, including service children and progress is being monitored to see if additional tailored support is required for individual schools.
A new webpage has been launched on the SAfE website which sets out key information for schools with service children. This includes information on the use of the Service Pupil Premium which is made available to schools to help them to offer pastoral and emotional support and to help mitigate the negative impact on service children of family or parental mobility and is currently £310 per eligible pupil.
Following a number of queries from service families regarding home to school transport, Surrey Admissions and Transport prepared a briefing paper outlining the statutory entitlement for school transport, the appeals process and implications for service families. This was presented at SCC’s twice-yearly meeting of the Unit Welfare Officers, both regular and reserve, covering Surrey which gave an opportunity to ask questions of the lead officer, after which Unit Welfare Officers took the guidance back to their units to share with families as appropriate.
Health, wellbeing and welfare
On 1 April 2020, Surrey Heartlands became one Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) from a merger of four separate CCGs. As a result, plans are in place for re-signing the Armed Forces Covenant as a new statutory body with the Deputy Commander of 11 Infantry Brigade once Covid19 restrictions allow.
The Armed Forces Health Champions Group continued to meet during the year under the chairmanship of the Deputy Director of Surrey Heartlands. The group brings together colleagues from across the health system with Adult Social Care, the voluntary sector and the military with Surrey County Council officers to further support for Surrey’s Armed Forces community. Issues considered included the Employer Recognition Scheme awards, Step into Health, GP Veteran Awareness Training and support for armed forces carers.
The Forces Connect South East Veterans’ Hubs project led by Surrey County Council was successfully completed during the summer bar some delays in opening provision due to the impact of Covid-19. The project achieved more than was anticipated and has significantly improved services for veterans across the Surrey, Hampshire, Kent and East and West Sussex by connecting with 35 veterans’ hubs across the south east, including seven in Surrey.
In order to assess where the focus of the project should be, a needs and gap analysis by county was carried out, looking at the location of veterans as well as their needs and requirements. Over 2,500 veterans took part in this research which showed what veterans wanted from a hub, and the key infrastructure needed. It showed that quite a number do not label themselves as veterans, rather ex-service, and confirmed that members of the LGBTQ and BAME community feel accepted as members of the wider veterans’ community and do not seek specific provision. This reflects the way LGBTQ and BAME are represented across the armed forces. However, in areas where retired Gurkhas and their families make up a significant proportion of the local community, the project has enabled the creation of two new hubs that are Gurkha facing yet welcoming to all veterans.
The research led to the production of a best practice guide ‘Grow your Hub’ guide and manual (commended by ASDIC) which provides practical advice to anyone seeking to set up a hub.
This work led to the roll-out of best practice identified and the promotion of locally tailored services. Twenty-one new and existing hubs across the SE region have been supported and sustained through the project both financially and through mentoring. This includes 17 new Hubs that are now operational (or will be once Covid-19 restrictions allow) across the region.
The University of Surrey was commissioned to provide external evaluation of the project and found that ‘the project has exercised a strong influence in integrating ex-armed forces personnel into regular civilian life…. and played a significant role in establishing a network of like-minded ex-armed forces personnel who have not only benefitted from the regular camaraderie and friendly interaction but on several occasions received life-saving support, a new job and help. The best practice guide provides information which has enabled individuals to set up support services and networks based on their individual community needs.’
The model of holding a veterans’ hub within Guildford Fire Station has been of interest across both the county and nationally. Since its inaugural meeting in June 2019, the successful model will be rolled out within two further stations in Surrey (Woking and Fordbridge) as well as ones in Kent and Berkshire once Covid restrictions allow. The Surrey Chief Fire Officer is the national Armed Forces Lead for the Fire Service and will take this approach to the Chief Fire Officers meeting to share it across the country
As the hubs were not able to meet in person during the pandemic, Surrey Fire and Rescue Service worked with partners in the Surrey Civilian-Military Partnership Board to provide an online provision via zoom. Two sessions were held in December 2020 and March 2021 and included inspirational speakers, including Surrey’s Chief Fire Officer as well as representatives of support agencies including SSAFA, Royal British Legion, Citizens Advice and the Transition and Intervention Liaison Service (‘TILS’) who explained services available and how these could be accessed whilst Covid19 restrictions were still in place.
In advance of the opening of the new hub in Fordbridge and in partnership with the North Surrey Armed Forces Partnership, a management committee has been established along with a Facebook Group and Twitter account, @fordbridgehub, to disseminate information and to provide a platform for anyone in North Surrey who has served to come together and connect online. During the first lockdown in spring 2020, the crew at Fordbridge fire station also established a community garden that its hoped will become a focal point for the Hub to use as soon as it is safe to do so.
Local authorities, organisations, charities and hubs have been proactive in helping to ensure veterans are supported during the pandemic. Armed Forces charities and other relevant sources of support available to veterans have been included in contact centre resources. In addition, a specific communication was sent out via Surrey Community Foundation and Surrey Community Action to voluntary and community groups across the county highlighting how to signpost to support available along with an offer of training for staff within the community and voluntary sector.
Veterans’ Should not be Forgotten
In March 2020, the Chancellor of the Exchequer awarded additional funding for veterans’ mental health, some of which was made available to provide immediate support for vulnerable veterans with reduced social contact as a result of Covid19. Surrey was fortunate to receive a total of over £13,000 of this funding as a result of successful bids by Age UK Surrey for additional support for veterans over the phone, and by the Veterans Support Association for hobby packs to give veterans a project to focus on during lockdown.
Due to the Covid19 pandemic many of the plans in place for armed forces events needed to be changed to take account of the restrictions in place at the time. The UK was on full lockdown on both VE Day and Remembrance Sunday, and during Armed Forces week and VJ Day many restrictions were in place which resulted in the majority of events held during the year being moved online. This section sets out some of the events that took place.
As original plans for celebrating and commemorating VE Day had to be put on hold, Surrey Military focussed on collating local and national Virtual VE Day 75 events and sharing them online. At a county level, the Chairman of Surrey County Council Tony Samuels led the county in tribute and remembrance, addressing Surrey residents with a speech shared online on Friday 8 May. In addition an insight into the personal and moving stories behind the victory of VE Day were shared by three Surrey residents. Guildford Cathedral’s service for VE Day on Sunday 10 May was livestreamed to residents via their youtube account. To help young children join in the celebrations, a VE Day 75 colouring poster was designed and shared for families to stick in their windows.
All across the county, local authorities and local communities came together to give thanks, find hope and celebrate. Below are just a few brief highlights.
Elmbridge Museum hosted an online exhibition focusing on Elmbridge’s experience during WWII. This included three videos to bring objects in the museum to life and explain their significance. In Epsom and Ewell VE Day goody bags (supported by Sainsburys and Waitrose) were delivered to veterans. Guildford Cathedral was stunningly bathed in red, white and blue lights over the VE Day 75 weekend. Mole Valley marked the occasion with videos reminding us why it’s important to celebrate VE Day and what it was like to celebrate in Dorking 75 years ago. Reigate and Banstead called on residents to make and decorate their homes with bunting and share images. In the run up to the anniversary Runnymede shared some wonderful photographs of local life in the second world war.
As well as producing a half hour virtual service for VE Day 75, Spelthorne Borough Council promoted the “V” for Victory community tribute and encouraged the public to post pictures of themselves on social media with the hashtags: #spelthorneremembers and #surreyremembers. The initiative was adopted by local authorities, organisations and businesses across the South East and was a great success. Residents were also encouraged to send in their own photos from VE Day and Spelthorne Museum incorporated them along with photos from their own archive to curate a virtual exhibition. The exhibition was visited 684 times over the course of the bank holiday weekend; a record for the museum and will provide an enduring archive for the local community. Spelthorne Young Voices recorded two songs especially for the commemorations with children recording their parts in isolation before they were combined together. Given the technical challenge this presented it was no mean feat and was the first time that the choir had performed in this way. The commemorations were streamed over 3000 times over the course of the bank holiday weekend and the social media campaign that led up to it reached a potential audience of some 90,000 people. The commemorations generated articles in the local press, on radio and provided an opportunity to promote the Armed Forces Covenant. Most importantly, they provided a means for residents to pay their respects and helped to bring the community together at a time of adversity.
Surrey Heath put together make-your-own bunting and a poster and shared virtual commemorations, which included local history. Tandridge encouraged residents to celebrate by decorating their homes and listening to VE Day party music via Facebook. A number of pipers also played across the area. The Mayor of Waverley encouraged residents to mark the occasion and remember those who sacrificed so much, making use of digital technology share time with friends and family. Woking shared some wonderful historical images and the area collectively raised a glass to those who gave so much.
Despite being in partial lockdown as a result of Covid-19, and social distancing rules still applying, many local authorities across the county held a flag raising ceremony, with some opting to do it virtually. The county flag raising took place at Guildford Cathedral, with Mr Michael More-Molyneux, Lord-Lieutenant of Surrey raising the Armed Forces Day flag with the Very Reverend Dianna Gwilliams, Dean of Guildford and the Rt Revd Andrew Watson, Bishop of Guildford.
Further ceremonies were held by Surrey County Council, Guildford Borough Council, Mole Valley District Council, Runnymede Borough Council, Spelthorne Borough Council, Surrey Heath Borough Council, Woking Borough Council and Farnham Town Council.
Armed Forces week celebrations continued with a daily themed social media campaign which encouraged residents to share photos of the loved ones who are serving or who have served. Reserves Day was celebrated by the release of a video by Surrey County Council recognising the valuable skills that our reservists bring to civilian employment. This was particularly relevant during the fight against Covid-19, where a number of the Surrey reservists either were deployed or used their skills in re-deployed roles within the multi-agency approach to deal with the pandemic.
The week culminated on Armed Forces Day with a speech issued on social media by the Lord-Lieutenant thanking the Armed Forces for all they do, both at home and abroad, which included a collage of the photos that were shared during the week on social media. That evening Guildford Cathedral was illuminated with the Armed Forces Flag covering the whole of it.
Saturday 15 August 2020 marked the 75th Anniversary of VJ Day (Victory over Japan) commemorating the end of the Second World War. The huge magnitude of the war in the Far East is often overlooked and the price of victory was enormous. To mark the day Colonel Patrick Crowley DL shared his insights on VJ Day via a video on social media which highlighted the role of 2nd Battalion East Surrey Regiment. The Surrey History Centre brought together stories, images and artefacts relating to VJ Day on their webpage WWII – Britain’s Forgotten Army. These included images of some of the celebrations that took place in Surrey in 1945 and also stories and documents relating to those held in the notoriously brutal POW camps.
Many of the bigger plans for marking VJ Day had to be postponed, however some were still able to take place. Guildford Cathedral held a social distanced VJ75 Day service at which Colonel Patrick Crowley gave an address, which was streamed online. Other examples of local celebration included Epsom and Ewell where 24 goodie bags and afternoon tea style treats donated by Sainsbury’s and Waitrose were delivered to veterans, and in Spelthorne where yellow daisies were planted and a video was released featuring a local Army Cadet and a local resident who is the former president of the North Surrey Branch of the Burma Star Association and a WW2 Veteran.
Many residents came together in spirit at 11am, joining people across the nation for two-minute silence to remember the sacrifices of those who gave so much on our behalf.
Due to the second national lockdown, it was not possible to hold communal services of Remembrance inside places of worship, but many services were streamed online including the one at Guildford Cathedral. Outdoors services at war memorials and local cenotaphs were permitted where strict social distancing rules were observed and a number of these were held across the county including one run by Farnham Town Council at Gostrey Meadow. Representatives from ATC(Pirbright) also attended smaller Remembrance Services in Woking, Guildford, Bisley, Knaphill and Pirbright.
All Surrey residents were encouraged to take part in the two-minute silence on their doorstep, or inside their homes, as a mark of remembrance at 11am on Sunday 8 November (Remembrance Sunday) and Wednesday 11 November (Armistice Day).
In order to show our thanks to our war heroes, some of Surrey’s key workers – our modern-day heroes – showed their thanks through a video streamed online which saw key workers recite out a poem thanking those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
Surrey Employer Recognition Scheme Awards
Ashford and St Peter's NHS Foundation Trust
Automatic Data Processing Ltd (ADP)
Capgemini UK PLC
CGI IT UK Ltd
Crest Nicholson Plc
Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust
ISS Facility Services
Jankel Armouring Ltd
Made to Measure Mentoring Ltd
Royal Surrey NHS Foundation Trust
Southern Gas Networks Plc (SGN)
Surrey County Council
Wates Construction Ltd
Woking Borough Council
AFC Total: 87
Peter Martin (Chairman) Surrey County Council
Brigadier Paul Evans OBE DL Chairman of Recognise and Remember Task Group
Mr Michael More-Molyneux HM Lord-Lieutenant of Surrey
Colonel John Baynham OBE Deputy Commander, 11 Infantry Brigade and HQ SE
Colonel Patrick Crowley DL South East Reserve Forces’ and Cadets’ Association
Lt-Col Shamus Kelly Commanding Officer, Army Training Centre (Pirbright)
Major Richard Watkins 1st Battalion Irish Guards
Debbie Goldsmith Army Training Centre (Pirbright)
Mr David Munro Police and Crime Commissioner for Surrey
Steve Owen-Hughes Chief Fire Officer, Surrey Fire and Rescue Service
Jim France Royal British Legion
Sqn Ldr Bryan Jones SSAFA Surrey
Anthony Shipley Surrey Heartlands
Cllr Tom Gracey Surrey Leaders Representative
James Whiteman Surrey Chief Executives’ Representative
Reverend Roland Olliff Diocese of Guildford
Louise Punter Surrey Chambers of Commerce
John Kingsbury Veteran’s Representative
Canon Peter Bruinvels CC Surrey County Council Civilian-Military Liaison Adviser
Supported by officers from Surrey County Council
For further information please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
As Chairman and Vice Chairmen of Forces Connect South East (FCSE), it gives us great pleasure to present to you our closing report. This follows what has been a hugely successful two-year Ministry of Defence (MoD) Covenant Grant funded project to embed and mainstream the Armed Forces Covenant within our public services across Hampshire, Kent, Medway, Surrey, East Sussex, Brighton & Hove and West Sussex, building on existing best practice from health and local authorities. The Armed Forces community now has consistent access to clear information and signposting, additional support when transitioning to civilian life and support when dealing with public services ‘outside the wire’. This has been provided through a seamless approach by all partners supporting community needs and requirements.
We know that there is a large Armed Forces presence with 50 Regular/Reserve Units or Stations, Service families and over 280000 veterans in the area. Our partnership, which comprises Local Authorities, the Armed Forces, the NHS Armed Forces Networks and Service Charities, has worked hard to ensure that the Armed Forces community are able to get fair and consistent advice at all points of access to our services across the SE Region.
We are very pleased to say that the project has been an overwhelming success. Shared Intelligence (our external evaluators) concluded: ‘The training has increased the level of understanding of Armed Forces Champions (AFCs) and frontline staff of the needs of the Armed Forces community and the services that are required if they are to reduce the risk of disadvantage in accessing public services. Our evidence suggests that this increase in understanding from the training leads to AFCs feeling more empowered and with greater confidence to support members of the Armed Forces community’. Our training packages have been delivered to over 7,000 staff and councillors, who are now ‘Forces aware and Forces friendly’, can identify and respond appropriately to the specific needs of the Armed Forces community and recognise the importance of asking the question ‘Have you or a family member served?’.
To complement the training, we have built a hugely successful ‘Forces Connect’ mobile app which is available free to download to support both the Armed Forces community as well as those who are there to support them. This app contains comprehensive signposting information for both local and national organisations which is easily accessible within four simple clicks.
We have also risen to the challenge of sharing our work across the UK. We launched a national toolkit containing our materials at the Local Government Association (LGA) Annual Conference in Bournemouth in July 2019 and delivered our training in areas as far afield as the Scottish Highlands, West Midlands, East Anglia and the South West including Wiltshire, to name only a few.
We feel justly proud of all that we have achieved not just in the South East but also across the UK as ‘Forces Connect Together We Stay Connected’ over the past two years. The FCSE programme has built a legacy of sustainable training packages, a range of useful resources and a mobile app as well as a culture of cross-border partnership working. This has enabled us and empowered others to actively deliver against the principal aim of the Covenant to ensure that members of the Armed Forces Community are not disadvantaged because of their service to the Nation. We have delivered in every respect on the commitment that we made to the MoD in 2017.
This report sets out a summary of the key achievements of the FCSE Partnership in effectively embedding the Armed Forces Covenant at all levels within public authorities across Hampshire, Kent, Medway, Surrey, East Sussex, Brighton & Hove and West Sussex. The Armed Forces Covenant is a promise by the Nation ensuring that those who serve or who have served in the Armed Forces, and their families, are treated fairly.
In 2017 Surrey County Council, on behalf of the FCSE partnership was successful in applying for a £281,300 Armed Forces Covenant Fund grant to promote understanding and awareness of issues affecting the Armed Forces community to ensure the Covenant is embedded in mainstream Service delivery through sharing and building on best practice. The partnership was awarded an additional £40,000 to share best practice across the UK. This funding was used to develop and deliver a range of face-to-face and e-learning training packages targeted at frontline staff who deal directly with residents, managers and councillors, as well as signposting information available both online and via a mobile app to achieve the following five outcomes:
This report sets out on the following pages how each outcome has been delivered and achieved. It draws on key findings from Shared Intelligence, who were appointed as external evaluators to FCSE. They carried out a series of surveys, interviews and focus group discussions with councillors, trainees, service families, veterans and members of the Armed Forces community to look at their knowledge, understanding and confidence both before and after training.
FORCES CONNECT TRAINING AND MATERIALS
To support the successful delivery of the FCSE project, partners combined their different skills, knowledge and expertise around training programmes, digital technology and signposting tools to produce a comprehensive and cohesive package of training and materials– these are referred to under each of the relevant outcomes. They are available to access free via the Forces Connect Toolkit on Knowledge Hub.
Face-to-face training packages:
Elected Councillor Armed Forces Champion training – a two-hour course which enables elected councillors and Covenant lead officers to raise their profile and in so doing connect better with the Armed Forces community raising awareness of their needs both within the council and externally.
Service Champion training – an in-depth four-hour course for managers and those who regularly come into contact with the Armed Forces community, to promote the Covenant and enhance understanding of the needs of the Armed Forces community and how to provide help. Once trained, ‘Service Champions’ provide consistent advice and can cascade training to frontline colleagues. This course is CPD (Continuing Professional Development) accredited.
Frontline Staff training – a 45 minute briefing for Contact Centre and frontline staff who deal directly with people either face-to-face or by phone to provide a snapshot of the Armed Forces community, explain how to effectively signpost them to help and emphasise the fundamental importance of asking the question, “Have you or a family member served?”.
Forces Connect Employee Mentoring – this CPD accredited course was developed to support HR, recruiting professionals and line managers to achieve a greater understanding of the Armed Forces culture and the issues military personnel can face when transitioning from service life. The course provides advice on setting up mentoring and buddy systems using existing veteran and reservist employees as mentors.
Armed Forces Covenant for Frontline Staff – FCSE widely promoted the Armed Forces Awareness e-learning packages initially developed by the Coventry, Solihull and Warwickshire Covenant Partnership funded by Warwickshire County Council and the Armed Forces Covenant Fund.
Signposting Pathways and Mobile App: A number of county specific Armed Forces signposting pathways (topic-based information sheets with contact details used for signposting members of the Armed Forces community to relevant sources of help and support) for key services were developed. These were made available digitally via the free ‘Forces Connect’ mobile app available on Android and Apple which enables users to access the support they need in four simple clicks.
School Admissions video: This video was produced to address the challenging and often stressful process Armed Forces families face from frequent moves, by setting out the criteria and explaining in straightforward terms the process Forces families are required to undertake when applying for a school place and how to make an appeal if they are unsuccessful in gaining their school of choice.
FORCES CONNECT SOUTH EAST GOVERNANCE
The FCSE programme was governed by a cross-border group of all FCSE partners at both councillor and officer level. All training materials were endorsed by a ‘Senior User Group’ of officers from the Royal Navy, the Army and the Royal Air Force and the Ministry of Defence’s Armed Forces Covenant Team has reviewed and approved the content of the training packages. Membership of these groups can be found at the end of this document.
COUNCILS HAVE A GOOD UNDERSTANDING OF THE NEEDS OF THE ARMED FORCES COMMUNITY AND THE EXPECTATIONS ASSOCIATED WITH EFFECTIVE DELIVERY OF THE COVENANT
‘The FCSE training has significantly increased understanding of the Armed Forces community and their needs amongst public sector staff as well as the type of services they might require’ (Shared Intelligence (SI), Final Report, October 2019)
All Councils, having signed the Covenant, now fully understand the implications of it and how to identify those who are serving or have served and their families, and the issues that may be of concern to them such as moving schools, finding employment for spouses and accessing health and welfare support.
This understanding is publicly demonstrated through dedicated pages for the Armed Forces on council websites, as well as frontline staff now asking residents the question of whether they or a family member have served in the British Armed Forces when they are seeking support from public services.
This has been achieved through outstanding training delivered to over 7,000 people through the hierarchy of local authorities, Police, Fire & Rescue and Health as well as colleagues in the voluntary and faith sectors in the South East. ‘….during in-depth interviews, all interviewees said that they learned new things about the needs of the Armed Forces community whether or not they had some prior knowledge ...’ (SI).
During the programme:
‘70% said the training and networking strengthened their understanding of the military footprint, local needs and the types of services they may need to access’ (SI). “…captured all key elements of the subject, anticipating obvious questions and allowing effective interaction”. (Quote from trainee)
‘91% of Service Champions reported an increase in knowledge’ (SI).
“At first point of access with Social Care we now ask “have you or any of your family served in the Armed Forces?” (Quote from trainee)
‘75% had an increased understanding of the types of services they require’ (SI).
“I shared what I learned with members of the Offender Management Team. The frontline staff presentation is also available for them to refer to on my desk” (Quote from trainee)
“…I now know the Covenant is about recognising challenges, supporting people and making sure that they are treated fairly and not penalised for being in the Armed Forces …” (Quote from trainee)
The commitment of our partners to the Covenant has grown stronger during the period of the project, and participation in the FCSE programme has positively supported Kent County Council and the NHS Armed Forces Networks (under Hastings and Rother CCG) in joining Surrey and Hampshire County Councils as Gold MoD Employer Recognition Scheme (ERS) Award holders, and East Sussex County Council, West Sussex County Council, Medway Council and Brighton & Hove City Council gaining ERS Silver status.
CLEAR INTEGRATED PATHWAYS ENSURE THE ARMED FORCES COMMUNITY BENEFITS FROM IMPROVED ACCESS AND SIGNPOSTING TO RELEVANT INFORMATION
‘Increased knowledge and understanding and confidence are resulting in referrals. Over a third of frontline staff have referred a member of the Armed Forces community to a service and 81% said that they felt as though they had the right information to make an appropriate referral of a member of the Armed Forces community’ (Shared Intelligence Final Report, October 2019).
‘The development of county specific signposting pathways and the newly created ‘Forces Connect’ mobile app, has increased staff and councillor confidence in their ability to help and signpost members of the Armed Forces community to local sources of support. 36% of frontline staff surveyed a month or more after training said that they had made a referral to a service since the training and 25% said that they had used a pathway’ (SI).
The feedback received on the app has been unanimously positive across the UK, particularly from frontline staff, Unit Welfare Officers and other members of the Armed Forces community, both young and old. Since its launch in January 2019, there have been over 1,000 downloads and it has expanded well beyond the South East with an additional 10 regions added, with further interest from the Scottish Highlands, Wales, Cumbria and Wiltshire. FCSE welcomes further regions throughout the UK to join the app platform to further enable easy access to local and national organisations who are able to provide help and support.
“We plan to adopt the app… this will enable us to ensure our delivery partners are aware of what is available and can offer more tailored and appropriate signposting services”. (Jozi Brown, Engagement Manager Cumbria CVS).
Shared Intelligence noted that ‘…the pathways complement existing initiatives such as the Veterans Gateway and are an important part of the FCSE programme’. FCSE has worked hard to ensure that all materials complement and do not duplicate what is already available in other areas.
A PARTNERSHIP APPROACH BETWEEN THE ARMED FORCES AND LOCAL AUTHORITIES IS EMBEDDED THROUGH OUR WAYS OF WORKING
‘Networking between those in similar roles has improved, as have links with the Armed Forces’ (Shared Intelligence Final Report, October 2019)
Partnership working between local authorities and the Armed Forces was the key foundation to the FCSE programme. All the local authorities within the partnership already had a relationship of mutual trust and recognised the benefits of working together to avoid duplication, build on best practice already in place, learn from each other and achieve economies of scale. This approach has led to a more consistent approach in the delivery of the Covenant by removing barriers and enabling fair access to public services.
Local authorities also had well established and successful working relationships with the Armed Forces, both Regular and Reserve, across the South East region. The partnership approach between FCSE authorities has enabled those authorities with a comparatively small military presence to benefit from working closely with authorities with greater numbers of military, thereby increasing opportunities to integrate and to share resources and best practice in supporting the Armed Forces Community locally.
The training delivered through the programme has also helped to further strengthen partnership working. Councillors and officers together welcomed the additional contacts and networks that resulted from the programme. ‘…fellow champions are seen as an important source of advice’ (SI).
The development of networks is a particularly important element of the role of elected councillors. The training, peer mentoring and networking events organised through the FCSE programme ‘… made a big difference in engaging with the Armed Forces community with over half of the elected councillors having improved networks with the Brigade Task Force Commanders and 61% of elected councillors had improved connection with other champions and covenant officers across their counties’ (SI).
THE DELIVERY OF THE ARMED FORCES COVENANT IS EMBEDDED AND SUSTAINED WITHIN PUBLIC SECTOR ORGANISATIONS ACROSS THE SOUTH EAST
‘Our research shows that the training has improved understanding of the Covenant and that Councils are embedding the Covenant in its policies. The MoD Employer Recognition Scheme Award is an important motivator for keeping the Covenant on a council’s agenda’ (Shared Intelligence Final Report, October 2019)
Research carried out has demonstrated that the most significant barrier to delivering the Armed Forces Covenant is a lack of awareness of what it is and what it means. The FCSE programme aimed to address this and ensure that there was awareness of the Covenant at all levels within local public services.
The training packages for councillors, service champions and frontline staff all cover what the Covenant is, what it means, why it is important and how it can be incorporated into day to day practice. ‘Our research shows that the training has improved understanding of the Covenant. 67% of Service Champions said the training made a lot of difference to their understanding of the Covenant’ (SI).
An important consideration for the FCSE programme was ensuring its sustainability past the end of the funding period. A ‘train the trainer’ approach was used with all trained service champions receiving a copy of the frontline staff presentation, with script, which enables them to continue to share the learning within their organisation.
It was also important for the programme to encourage councils to further embed the Covenant in their policies which would help ensure its delivery is sustained. The success of all FCSE partners in achieving either the gold or silver Employer Recognition Scheme Award is one demonstration of this. Linking Forces-friendly activity in with the Employer Recognition Scheme has facilitated greater opportunities for influencing council policy, especially around HR policies, for example additional paid leave for Reservists, guaranteed interviews, Covenant briefings during staff induction and a mentoring scheme for new ex-Service employees. Research highlighted that: ‘…more councils are embedding the Covenant in their policies ... the number of elected councillor Armed Forces Champions reporting that their council had incorporated the Covenant in its policies increased from 67 per cent to 93 per cent during the project’ (SI).
DISADVANTAGE IN ACCESSING CRUCIAL PUBLIC SERVICES SUCH AS HOUSING, SCHOOLS AND ADULT SOCIAL CARE IS REDUCED AS THERE IS WIDER AWARENESS OF THE ISSUES FACED BY THE ARMED FORCES COMMUNITY
The purpose of the Covenant is to remove disadvantage for all members of the Armed Forces community in accessing public services, and all elements of the FCSE programme aimed to raise awareness of the Covenant and how disadvantage could be overcome.
The evaluation concluded that ‘as a result of the FCSE programme, frontline staff, Service Champions and Elected Councillor Armed Forces Champions have a better understanding of the needs of the Armed Forces Community. They are more confident in supporting members of the community and making appropriate referrals and … the Covenant is becoming well-embedded within councils and other public service organisations. Finally, our research shows that, having received the training, people are more likely to ask a member of the public seeking to access a service whether they, or a member of their family, have ever served in the Armed Forces. This development is likely to contribute significantly to achieving the objectives of the Armed Forces Covenant and removing disadvantage’.
As part of the evaluation and to help measure impact of the programme, three focus groups were held with military spouses (one Gurkha unit) and ex-Service personnel. They discussed their access to a range of services including applying for school places, finding GPs and transfer of medical records, obtaining suitable local employment, as well as discussing some of the issues they faced such as loneliness, connecting with like-minded people and knowing where to go to for support. These types of issues are addressed in the training and so it is anticipated that over time, as the training is further cascaded and embedded, no members of the Armed Forces community will feel disadvantaged as a result of their service, and staff confidence will continue to increase in helping them as well as in signposting them to additional sources of support provided by service charities, community events and local groups.
One area that the FCSE partners were keen to address when investigating disadvantage was in relation to managing expectations of the Covenant within the Armed Forces community and the message that the Covenant is generally not about positive advantage, but about removing disadvantage. School admissions was one such area where the partnership agreed further work needed to be carried out to manage family’s expectations. To address this, the school admissions video was produced and widely circulated, mainly aimed at families but also at schools and those who support the families. The video was produced towards the end of the programme and has been very well received by those who have seen it.
FCSE LEGACY - SHARING BEST PRACTICE NATIONALLY
The MoD awarded FCSE an additional £40,000 to share best practice nationally. In order to enable open access to all training materials and products produced or recommended by the FCSE partnership a ‘Forces Connect Toolkit’ was produced. This toolkit, hosted on Knowledge Hub, contains editable training materials and resources that can be accessed free by any Local Authority, organisation or military unit, and was widely promoted at the MoD National Covenant in the Community Conference in April 2019 as well at the Local Government Association (LGA) Conference in July 2019.
The partnership worked with local authorities and Army Brigades across the UK to deliver a series of training workshops, ‘train the trainer’ events and conferences to promote the Forces Connect Toolkit and to deliver the three training packages for Elected Councillors Armed Forces Champions, Service Champions and Frontline staff to authorities across the country. There was a high demand and excellent take up of the training nationally and by the end of the programme over 60 local authorities had received the training across England and Scotland including Highlands and Moray, Cumbria, York, North Yorkshire, Lancashire, West Midlands, East Midlands, East Anglia, Milton Keynes, Luton, Dorset, South West, Essex, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and the South East.
Testimonials from National workshops:
“In practical terms it has always been easy to work with the Forces Connect team who are a ready source of knowledge and willingly share resources. Forces Connect came to Preston in June and trained 60 front line staff and 30 local authority Armed Forces Champions and lead officers. This training was particularly significant for us in Lancashire as it was the first time our champions and lead officers had come together in support of the Covenant.
The Forces Connect training is delivered with such energy and passion for the Forces and it had a significant impact within Lancashire and my project. Most notably within the Armed Forces Champions who are significantly more motivated to push their relevant local authorities to do more in support of the Covenant now. By way of example, we are now working towards the creation of a military civilian partnership board, which will provide oversight and governance to our activity. I believe this wouldn’t have happened without the support of Forces Connect and the motivation they created” (Ian Barber, Project Lead, Lancashire Armed Forces Covenant Hub)
“We were delighted to be able to work with the Forces Connect team, and offer their Elected Councillor, Service Champions and Frontline training here in Cumbria. Our armed forces support project started only recently, so this opportunity has given us a boost in terms of reaching our desired outcome – to offer better connected and accessible services in the county, for our local ex-service community. The training has enhanced our armed forces champions’ knowledge of their roles, improved our understanding of support pathways for the ex-service community and reinvigorated our partners’ enthusiasm and interest”. (Jozi Brown, Engagement Manager, Cumbria CVS).
The FCSE programme has achieved its original outcomes and has embedded the Armed Forces Covenant at all levels within public services through the delivery of a number of different training packages, signposting information and peer support to help to ensure that the Armed Forces community are treated fairly and not disadvantaged by their service.
The training within the South East as well as the roll out of the programme nationally has been well received by both partners and the Ministry of Defence and can be seen below:
Lt Gen Richard Nugee – Chief of Defence People tweeted “Well done Peter, an example to all of what can be done by just getting the right people together and a common purpose – getting it right for Veterans.”
Jenna Clare, Joint Head of Armed Forces Covenant Team said, “We are very grateful for the work of the Forces Connect South East team in spreading the word about the importance of the Armed Forces Covenant in ensuring our Service personnel, Veterans and their families get the fair deal they deserve.”
Carol Stone, Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust said “Congratulations on the success of Forces Connect South East; which we supported with a grant through our Strengthening Delivery of the Covenant Programme. In particular, we must note the way that FCSE rose to the challenge that the Fund set you - to share best practice with local authorities across the country, which we know has been well received.”
Col Bob Crawley, Branch Vice-President SSAFA Surrey said “The project has clearly been an outstanding success .....I have no doubt that many servicemen and their families will now benefit from the increased understanding that FCSE has generated amongst the many agencies able to help them.”
All FCSE partners are committed to continuing to work closely together to ensure the Armed Forces community is treated fairly and will continue to work collaboratively to share best practice cross-border for the benefit of the whole Armed Forces community.
The Forces Connect South East team*
*some of names listed are no longer in post. For more information on Forces Connect South East contact FCSE@surreycc.gov.uk
Chairman: Councillor Peter Martin, Armed Forces Champion, Surrey County Council
Vice Chairman: Councillor Andrew Joy, Armed Forces Champion, Hampshire County Council
Vice Chairman: Col Simon Browne, Deputy Commander, 11 Infantry Brigade and Army representative of FCSE Senior User Group
Cllr Debbie Kennard, Armed Forces Champion, West Sussex County Council
Cllr Richard Long, Armed Forces Champion, Kent County Council
Cllr Howard Doe, Armed Forces Champion, Medway Council
Cllr Bill Bentley, Armed Forces Champion, East Sussex
Cllr Mo Marsh, Armed Forces Champion, Brighton & Hove
Kate Parkin, Director, NHS Armed Forces Networks (Kent and Sussex) and FCSE trainer for Service Champion training
Col (Retd) Bob Crawley, Surrey Chairman for SSAFA the Armed Forces charity
Gp Capt (Retd) Keith Lane, South East Reserve Forces and Cadets’ Association
Cdr Glynn Johns, Naval Regional Command Eastern England and Royal Navy representative of FCSE Senior User Group
Amanda Barnes, FCSE Programme Officer, Surrey County Council
James Painter, Community Partnerships Team Manager, Surrey County Council
Sarah Goodman, Covenant Officer, Surrey County Council
Canon Peter Bruinvels CC, Military Adviser, Surrey and Kent County Councils, Armed Forces Champion 11 Infantry Brigade and FCSE trainer for Elected Councillor AFC and Frontline Staff Training
Kate Steels, Covenant Officer, Hampshire County Council
Debra Exall, Covenant Officer, Kent County Council
Tim Woolmer, Covenant Officer, Kent County Council
Sally Manning, Covenant Officer, West Sussex County Council
Daniel Ratcliffe, Covenant Officer, Medway Council
Sarah Tighe-Ford, Covenant Officer, Brighton & Hove City Council
Kirstie Battrick, Covenant Officer, East Sussex County Council
Jim France, South East Manager, The Royal British Legion
Written evidence submitted to the Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill