East Anglia RFCA members include the Commanding Officers of Reserve and Cadet units in the region, serving or retired Reserve and Regular personnel and representatives from local government, employers, employees and education. Each of our association members contributes specialist knowledge and networks that strengthen and guide our connections in the region. Our members themselves are one of the mechanisms by which the Ministry of Defence fulfils its community engagement goals.
Our membership advocates on behalf of Reservists, Cadet Force Adult Volunteers and cadets in the region, ensuring that they continue to thrive with the support of the local communities they serve. In this respect, our members are instrumental in enabling Reserves and cadets to be more visible at key events in their communities, for example at County Shows and civic events. The county lieutenancies, who preside over the RFCA, offer another example of showcasing the best Reserve Forces and Cadets in their counties through their annual Lord-Lieutenant Awards, meritorious service awards and Lord-Lieutenants’ Cadets scheme.
The members connect with each other several times per year, either by interest group through, for example, our Joint Cadet Committee, or by area, for example at our bi-annual county forum meetings. Members also connect with groups outside the RFCA; our members sit on the Military partnership boards (or equivalent) of local authorities or are Armed Forces Champions in their area.
Local authorities in East Anglia have pledged to ensure that those who serve or have served in the Armed Forces and their families are not disadvantaged because of their service.
East Anglia RFCA works with the Reserve Forces Community Engagement Officers and local authorities together, to help deliver the Armed Forces Covenant in communities across the region.
Under the Armed Forces Covenant’s Community pledge, local authorities, statutory service providers and the Armed Forces community work together to:
- Encourage local communities to support the armed forces community in their areas.
- Nurture public understanding and awareness of issues affecting the armed forces community.
- Recognise and remember the sacrifices made by the armed forces community.
- Encourage activities which help to integrate the armed forces community into local life.
- Encourage the armed forces community to help and support the wider community, whether through participation in events and joint projects, or other forms of engagement.
All County Councils and unitary authorities in East Anglia have signed the Covenant.
Local authorities implement their Armed Forces Covenant in a way that fits with the values and ethos of their county. This results in inconsistencies in the delivery of support and services, as was outlined in the Forces in Mind Trust Report Our Community – Our Covenant in 2016.
Equally, local authorities and statutory service providers must themselves understand not only the issues affecting the armed forces community, but also stay abreast of who in their area identifies as part of the armed forces community. Some lead their own research into the latter, like the UK Armed Forces and Veterans Profile for Suffolk 2016, while data and insight provided by the Ministry of Defence supplements local knowledge. Some of these resources are available to download from our site, such as the report entitled Location of Armed Forces Pension and Compensation Recipients, October 2016.
A report for councils, Our Community – Our Covenant, was provided by Forces in Mind Trust.
This report offers insights for councils to help with the delivery of the Armed Forces Covenant; in housing, education, liaison, and all other Community aspects of the Covenant.
It contains examples of good practice, and ideas for improving the local delivery of the Armed Forces Covenant.
The research behind the report was supported by the Ministry of Defence, and commissioned in response to national concerns that local implementation of the Covenant is inconsistent.
Insights in the report include statistics on how many councils with responsibility for housing report that they have reflected the Covenant in their policies (90%) and how many councils report that they offer targeted support and special entitlements (70%). Adult social care stood out as the area in which the Covenant is least likely to be reflected in policies and strategies.
The report outlines a typology, reflecting the extent and type of the presence of the Armed Forces Community in a county.
The report also describes a core infrastructure, reflecting the actions taken by councils that have successfully implemented the Covenant.
Councils that have successfully implemented the Covenant have a core infrastructure in place.
Councils with no significant Armed Forces presence in their area are less likely to have the core infrastructure in place.
For those who can still improve how they deliver the covenant in their area, they might be interested to know what Council Chief Executives said, when asked what steps could be taken at a national level to improve the delivery of the Covenant.
The most popular steps were: the publication of a checklist of issues to be addressed (69%); a clearer statement of the expectations associated with the Covenant (67%) and advice on how to meet those expectations (67%).
Councils that have successfully implemented the Covenant have acted in proportion to the size and type of their Armed Forces community.
Bradford has a significant and known presence of veterans. It’s an area, similar to Wigan and Glasgow, from which members of the Armed Forces are recruited and to which many resettle. There is also little if any serving presence. Bradford successfully addressed the proportionality issue within its diverse locality. Bradford identified the importance of keeping the different communities in balance by implementing the Covenant carefully.
The council engages people from different communities by identifying similarities rather than differences. It uses Armed Forces events as a chance to celebrate every community and their impact on the Armed Forces, and vice versa. This has led to Bradford being able to reach out to the harder to reach groups in the community.
The needs of older Veterans are in most cases consistent with those of the general population. Veterans have the added advantage of being able to access to support from military charities, and many councils have arrangements in place to ensure that those who qualify are referred. This benefits not only the people accessing services, but also councils through relieving the financial pressure on councils and limited adult social care budgets.
Councils that have successfully implemented the Covenant have a dedicated area on their website.
According to the recent survey, 60% of Armed Forces community respondents identified the need for a web page with relevant links run by the council. But, 30% of councils don’t yet have a specific web page dedicated to providing information to the armed forces community. This figure rises to 40% among district councils. Finally, only a quarter of councils report having a web page that is very active.
Bedford Borough Council contains useful contact information for service charities and services available to everyone in the community, and a copy of a special booklet they produced for veterans. The Central Bedfordshire Council Armed Forces pages go a step further and includes a copy of the Community Covenant pledge they signed.
Peterborough Unitary Authority makes it easy to find the Armed Forces Champion, with a page dedicated to the individual and his work. Thurrock Unitary Authority have published details of their Veterans Charter and details about their supportive housing policies.
Norfolk County Council adds information about their Board, their action plan, the key locations with serving personnel and their families in their county and records of achievements in support of the armed forces community from 2015.
Suffolk County Council maintain an external site through their Covenant Board and Task Force whic laso includes comprehensive information about how the Council support the armed forces community, including holding a conference for key stakeholders.
Similarly, Hertfordshire County Council maintains a dedicated microsite. They’ve included a call for veterans to share their Service history with GPs to access valuable support.
Councils that have successfully implemented the covenant have clearly communicated the role of councils in relation to the community covenant.
Expectations flowing from the Covenant can vary significantly, with some members of the Armed Forces community thinking that the Covenant gives them the right to a service, as opposed to not being disadvantaged compared with others in the delivery of that service.
Conversely, there is a significant minority of ex-Service personnel with a set of problems related to health, housing or debt who are hard to engage. The difficulty councils face in reaching this group may partly be due to an unwillingness on the part of ex-Service personnel to identify as a Veteran. We often hear that Veterans were too proud, too afraid of being perceived as ‘damaged’, or too embarrassed to identify themselves as Veterans, especially when they were in a situation of need.
A lack of awareness of how statutory services operate, may also come into play. According to the research, this is a particular difficulty for Veterans who entered the military at a young age and left following a few years of service.
Some councils have recognised this situation and have designed innovative programmes to engage Veterans with complex issues which are in large part likely related to their service. They are confident that investing in support for Veterans can reduce demand on public services in the longer term.
Making the Armed Forces Community more aware of what the Covenant is and how it can be used will encourage them to self-identify as a Veteran if they need help with addressing a problem. Councils can support this approach by embedding asking whether people have served in the Armed Forces in their relevant procedures. Using Veterans as case workers is considered a good way to get Veterans engaged with services.
Councils that have successfully implemented the covenant have partnered with others organisations to offer Employment support.
Employment is the area where the highest percentage (28%) of respondents to the Armed Forces Community survey have identified themselves as having specific needs. There are two groups within the Armed Forces Community that might face disadvantage in employment in comparison to other citizens: the spouses and partners of serving members of the Armed Forces, and Veterans.
Plymouth holds an employment fair which is attended by businesses, charities, the council and other local organisations as well as members of the Armed Forces Community. This enables those members of the Armed Forces Community who are looking for employment, including those facing employment difficulties to get a job by talking to employers looking to recruit. Alternatively, it is a chance to boost awareness on how to get a job, and offers opportunities such as job shadowing, CV writing, and mock interviews. Charities such as the Royal British Legion and Combat Stress attend to offer further support to those who might need help in other areas. Plymouth also has a Corporate Covenant Group which is fed into the Community Covenant Group. This is a chance to get local businesses together to talk about the disadvantages that members of the Armed Forces Community, including Veterans are facing in their area and work towards addressing those disadvantages identified.
Wiltshire Council and Swindon Borough Council jointly manage an initiative called Higher Futures, which was developed by the Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership (SWLEP) with involvement of the military. This seeks to equip Veterans and Reservists with the necessary higher level skills (NVQ Level 4, HND/Degree and above) in business sectors which currently experience shortages in qualified employees.
A toolkit to help councils to implement the Covenant.
The Forces In Mind Trust report Our Community – Our Covenant includes:
- A self-assessment tool for councils to test the core infrastructure they have in place and identify any areas with gaps in delivery of local Covenant pledges.
- Scenarios describing specific circumstances of individuals who are part of the armed forces community. It is a useful tool for councils to think about the delivery mechanisms that they have in place in order to address the main issues in the scenarios.
- Top Tips that may be helpful to councils and their partners who are thinking about ways of improving the local delivery of the Covenant.
Do reach out to us on firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how the RFCA members in your area support and advise local authorities in delivering their Armed Forces Covenant pledges, or to find out more about our community engagement work.