Commitment to boost veterans services across the Lothians
A commitment has been made in the East of Scotland to strengthen the services and support available to the Armed Forces and Veterans community, and to raise awareness of the Armed Forces Covenant.
The Lothian Armed Forces and Veterans Project, which has been championed in Edinburgh by the Lord Provost, will see Councils across the region work in partnership with NHS Lothian, Veterans Scotland and the local Armed Forces community to support the 41,000+ ex-Service Personnel and 2,000+ Regular and Reserve Armed Forces living in the Lothians.
A Partnership Agreement was signed last night (Wednesday 27 September) by chief executives of partner organisations and Armed Forces and Veterans champions.
The new project, which has secured £200,000 of Covenant funding, aims to work with a wide range of stakeholders to:
- Improve the delivery of the national Armed Forces Covenant
- Create training courses and materials to raise the profile of the significant contribution made by the Armed Forces Community and the unique issues this community may face
- Promote the employability and skills of Reservists, ex-Forces personnel and their spouses across the public, private and third sectors
- Build on housing policy to develop additional advice and guidance relating to the provision of stable homes
- Help improve the coordination of health and wellbeing support given to the Armed Forces Community
- Support military families within the education system
- Support three, dedicated job roles over the next two years to deliver the project
- Improve the coordination of support provided to the armed forces community and veterans across all areas of public service and seek to improve social-economic opportunities for all Veterans who settle in the Lothians
Edinburgh’s Veterans Champion, Lord Provost Frank Ross, said: "I am committed to supporting veterans and championing their rights, their wellbeing and the important role members play in our society.
“By encouraging integration between local communities and the Armed Forces, we can strengthen the work we do to address issues affecting service personnel in areas like health and wellbeing, employment and housing. This project recognises the special difficulties that veterans are facing and is a commitment to further support them as individuals and as a community.
"Already, the length of time ex-service personnel served is taken into account when they are applying for council homes, and we work with the Edinburgh Garrison to provide housing advice and information to personnel before they leave the armed services. This project goes much further and connects the Covenant across the Lothians, joining key service providers together to focus support for those who have served their country along with their families.”
Lieutenant Colonel Doug Mackay, Commander Edinburgh Garrison, said: “I am delighted to be working in partnership with our Local Authorities in the Lothians, NHS Lothian and Veterans Scotland to help support the delivery of this project, funded from the Armed Forces Covenant Fund. It will build on our well-established Community Covenants and indeed the excellent relationships and networks that have already been established with a range of organisations.
"We are fortunate to have so many people in this region who are working together to help prevent Service Personnel and their families being disadvantaged as a result of their Service. I am therefore very much looking forward to working with the new Project Team and I am committed to helping them deliver the aims of the project.”
NHS Lothian (Veterans First Point) will help supply many of the specialist medical and counselling interventions which are part of the Health provision connected to this project.
Dr Tracey Gillies, Executive Medical Director and NHS Lothian’s Armed Forces and Veterans Champion, said: “We welcome this new initiative, and our well established V1P Lothian service looks forward to working with the new staff team to ensure that veterans are able to access help and support if required, and to maximise their potential as citizenship as they return to their homes and communities.”
Veterans Scotland is a membership organisation representing 70 service charities.
Colonel Martin Gibson, Executive Chairman of Veterans Scotland, said: “I really welcome this bold initiative which looks to bring together Local Authorities from Scotland’s capital city of Edinburgh and the Lothians in their continued commitment to the delivery of the Armed Forces Covenant. We at Veterans Scotland look forward to working in partnership and collaboration with the project team.”
Councillor Jim Goodfellow, Armed Forces Champion for East Lothian Council, said: “Serving personnel and armed forces veterans, and their families, can require specific support and services to enable them to enjoy a secure and stable integration within local communities. Local authorities are joining with other partners to help both individuals and families to successfully access a range of services to meet their housing, education, health and employment or training needs. I was pleased to represent East Lothian Council at the signing of the Lothian Armed Forces and Veterans Project Partnership Agreement which will provide integrated support to our armed forces personnel."
Councillor John McGinty, Veteran’s Champion for West Lothian Council, said: “West Lothian Council is delighted to join neighbouring local authorities and community planning partners in supporting the Lothian Armed Forces and Veterans Project. The project will complement the work which is taking place in West Lothian to support veterans, including the West Lothian Armed Forces Community Covenant (WLAFCC) which is a voluntary statement of mutual support between a civilian community and its local armed forces community. The WLAFCC is intended to support the Armed Forces Covenant which outlines the moral obligations between the nation, the government and the armed forces at a local level. The council supports a Wage Subsidy Programme which is available to local employers to help them to support unemployed armed forces personnel into employment. The council also recognises that health and exercise are vital for wellbeing, since 2013 West Lothian veterans and those covered by the Armed Forces Covenant have access to concessions from West Lothian Leisure.”
Councillor Adam Montgomery, Provost and Armed Forces Champion for Midlothian Council, said: “As Midlothian’s Veterans Champion, I’m honoured to be signing the Veterans Champions Pledge on behalf of Midlothian Council to support the amazing men and women who risk their lives to serve their country. Here in Midlothian, we have a very long and proud association with the Glencorse Barracks in Penicuik, which has been home to the army in various guises for around 150 years. Although scheduled for closure in 2032, we’re still working to keep open. As a council, we are committed to improving the lives of local veterans. This new pledge will hopefully bring better job prospects, improved housing and training opportunities for veterans, some of whom struggle to adapt to life back home.”