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How councils can support armed forces personnel in their communities

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A guest briefing from the Royal British Legion ahead of Armed Forces Day

It will hopefully not have escaped the attention of the reader that this coming Saturday is the return of the UK’s annual Armed Forces Day. In fact, The Armed Forces Day flag may well be fluttering high above your local town hall as you read this. 

While the national event will be taking place in Salisbury, towns and cities up and down the country will be taking part and taking the time to recognise and thank the UK’s Armed Forces. Whether serving or veteran, regular or reserves; and let us not forget their families; the most important thing about Armed Forces Day is that we use it to show support for our serving men and women. 

We often don’t realise it, but the UK’s armed forces community is large. Although the size of the UK’s serving Forces has shrunk over the past decade to 192,000 today, estimates of the size of the veteran community in this country numbers some 2.4 million people. Taken together with their families, carers and serving personnel; the Royal British Legion estimate that as many as one in 10 of the population are part of the Armed Forces community. The Legion is campaigning to have definitive answers to this numbers game by having a question included in the next census that will determine the exact size of the veteran population in the UK. 

Local authorities play a vital role in supporting this community. Every council in Great Britain has signed the Armed Forces Covenant, promising to remove disadvantage and provide special consideration in certain circumstances to the millions of people in this sprawling community. As we entered this ‘Armed Forces Week’ some councils have taken the opportunity to renew that commitment. Sutton LBC, for example, is one of several re-signing their covenant this week and the Legion is working with Wiltshire Council to throw a special BBQ for several thousand soldiers, sailors, airmen and their families on Friday, prior to the national event in Salisbury. 

The Armed Forces community is spread all over the country, not just in areas where there is a large barracks or airfield or naval dockyard. Just because they can’t be seen it doesn’t mean they are not there. It is this unseen section of the community that is often most in need of help when the going gets tough. The young service leaver struggling to start a second career, the child of a serving parent moving to their fourth school in as many years, the elderly war widow experiencing loneliness. The Legion and many other charities exist to support such people, and we are also here to help local authorities engage with those who need support and provide our expertise to make that support as effective as possible

The Legion engages with local authorities across England to provide our knowledge and our resources, working in partnership to support those in the armed forces community who need assistance. In the coming month your local authority will hear more from us on how we can work together to tackle loneliness and social isolation in the armed forces community, a group that are exposed to life events that can increase their risk of suffering. In our recent research, 25% of respondents to our survey said they felt lonely and isolated ‘always’ or ‘often’ To tackle this issue, and many more, we offer to you our expertise and experience. 

So, This Saturday, and for the rest of this week, please use the opportunities that Armed Forces Day provides to go out and meet the armed forces community in your area; the serving personnel, the veterans, and the families that stand beside them. Learn about their jobs and their lives, learn about their interactions with local government, and learn how your local government can continue to support them. 

Bruce Holborn, local government campaigns officer, The Royal British Legion. 

The Royal British Legion is the nation’s biggest Armed Forces charity providing care and support to all members of the British Armed Forces past and present and their families. Find out more online at rbl.org.uk

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