An Armed Forces Community Covenant for West Sussex has been signed aimed at giving serving personnel, veterans and their families more support and recognition at local level.
The covenant was signed by Mike Coleman, Chairman of West Sussex County Council, and Council Leader, Louise Goldsmith, during an event at County Hall on Thursday (July 26).
Signing on behalf of the military community was Brigadier Simon P Wolsey OBE, Regional Brigade Commander 2 (South East) Brigade.
Mike Coleman said: “I don’t think I have ever been more pleased to sign a document, and I am sure our residents will welcome it. The debt we all owe to serving and former members of the armed forces is immense.”
The Community Covenant is designed to reinforce at local level the national Armed Forces Covenant.
It says: “For West Sussex County Council, the Community Covenant presents an opportunity to bring its knowledge, experience and expertise to bear on the provision of help and advice to members of the Armed Forces Community.
“For the Armed Forces Community, the Community Covenant encourages the integration of Service life into civilian life and encourages members of the Armed Forces Community to support and play an active part in their local community.”
The covenant is also designed to “to demonstrate the County Council’s willingness to work with others to ensure the Armed Forces Community suffers no disadvantage in accessing public services and to encourage other organisations to make their own explicit statements about their support”.
Another key aim of the covenant is that it will “strengthen the position in accessing national funding to support projects which help foster and support the ties and mutual understanding between members of the Armed Forces Community and the wider community in which they live”.
The aims of the covenant locally are also listed.
The County Council is already part of the Sussex Armed Forces Network, established by NHS Sussex in order to better facilitate the provision of support to the Armed Forces Community across Sussex.
The covenant says: “We will continue to work closely with 2 (SE) Brigade, the Health Service and statutory providers, and the Charitable and Voluntary Sector, to develop and support this programme of work.”
The County Council is also working with Brighton and Hove City Council and East Sussex County Council to assess the health needs of military veterans in Sussex. It is also carrying out a needs assessment of families and children of serving military personnel at Thorney Island on the West Sussex-Hampshire border.
The County Council says it will work with the Armed Forces community to form a Civilian and Military Partnership Board to help achieve the aims of the Covenant.
Progress will be monitored by the Sussex Armed Forces Network and there will be annual reports to West Sussex County Council’s Cabinet and the Ministry of Defence.
Louise Goldsmith said: “Over the last ten years there has been the Iraq war and the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan, where we have heard about loss of life and severe injuries to many on active service. We all have a debt of gratitude to our brave servicemen and women for the part they have and continue to play.
“However, the covenant also recognises former members of the Armed Forces and that is a particularly important feature.
“We witness almost on a daily basis the demands on our military. For example, the signing of the covenant has taken place on the eve of the Olympics for which providing increased security has led to even more pressure. I am sure we all recognise the very important role the services play in keeping this country safe.”
Brigadier Wolsey said: “I was very pleased to sign this community covenant on behalf of every branch of the Armed Forces, and look forward to following its progress.
“The Armed Forces has a long and proud association with West Sussex such as the Royal Sussex Regiment, the Royal Military Police, RAF Tangmere, and, of course, Baker Barracks at Thorney Island today.
“I am sure this covenant will cement the already strong ties between the Armed Forces community and the wider community we are proud to serve.”