In 2018, ‘Renewing the Covenant in the Capital’, an Armed Forces Covenant funded project, began working with HQ London District to improve the understanding and delivery of the Armed Forces Covenant (AFC) within local authorities across London.
Established in 2011, the AFC looked to ensure that no service or ex-service person or their families faced any disadvantage due to their service. All 33 of London’s local authorities have signed the Covenant but deliver this commitment in their own way. This project was established to standardise the approach towards the Covenant across London. Work towards this goal has matured and will continue to grow through the project establishing a thorough framework of actions that councils can follow at their own pace and discretion. This framework, along with the recommendations made in the project report, allows councils to build on already strong foundations to adapt and supplement their offer of support to the Armed Forces community.
Through a deep dive analysis and ongoing engagement, the project has provided London’s councils with an understanding of the Armed Forces community within their own borough boundaries. It has also developed and delivered training courses aimed at all levels of council staff and produced a wider package of support resources available to all.
Many council policies have been adjusted to cater for the Armed Forces, and in some cases, there may be a different, more direct or more relevant pathway to support this community. The project, alongside the NHS, has specifically designed a local directory of support pathways which will make it easier to identify who can provide the relevant support required, breaking London into five smaller regions. This information is available online or in the form of a desktop aide and is available to anyone who deals with the Armed Forces community, including the Armed Forces community itself. These pathways are available free online at www.londoncovenant.co.uk and on the ‘Forces Connect’ mobile app. The app provides support pathways in several categories, and unlike the Veterans’ Gateway, provides support to all of the Armed Forces Community in the following areas: Housing, Employment, Mental Health, Physical Health, Rough Sleeping, Social Care, Education & Training, Carers and Families, Child & Adolescent, Gurkha Community. We are also launching in January 2021 an E-Learning package for serving personnel which will be available on the DLE.
Working with councils over the past two years has seen a big increase in engagement and a positive improvement in their relationships with, and support to, the Armed Forces. There has been an increase in the creation of Armed Forces dedicated webpages, council led Armed Forces Covenant meetings, those recognised by the MOD as forces friendly employers and 5 councils have renewed their commitment by re-signing the AFC. On top of this, new networking opportunities have been established with a very successful conference in February at the Kia Oval and London Council’s hosting a new Armed Forces Champion network.
The project, working alongside councils and other partners, has already had a positive effect in London with organisations able to assist and direct their Armed Forces community quickly and effectively. We encourage the community to use the new resources and for service providers to ‘ask the question’ whether their clients or close relatives have ever served in the Armed Forces. We are also encouraging members of the Armed Forces community to make known their Armed Forces connection so that the right pathway can be identified without delay.
A full report has now been published on these findings and recommendations and can be obtained by contacting Alex Page, Head of Community Engagement, HQ London District LONDIST-ArmedForcesCovenant@mod.gov.uk