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Armed Forces

Extra investment to support veterans in Wales.

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More funding for Wales’ specialist mental health service focused exclusively on military veterans, additional funding for Armed Forces Liaison Officers and a new resettlement guide to support people leaving the Armed Forces form part of a new package of more than £500,000 Welsh Government support for veterans.

This includes an additional £235,000 annually to fund Veteran National Health Service Wales (VNHSW) from 2021/22 onwards; £275,000 per annum to fund Armed Forces Liaison Officers across Wales until 2023; £50,000 to train prosthetists in Wales in new technologies; £120,000 to support military charities in tackling loneliness and social isolation; and £250,000 to support Armed Forces children.

Government funding for the VNHSW, now £920,000pa,  is an increase of 35%. In addition to creating Highly Specialist Veterans Clinical Lead posts within the service, the additional annual funding for 2021/22 maintains the provision of therapy previously supported for the last 3 years by Help for Heroes across Wales.

Minister for Mental Health, Wellbeing and the Welsh Language Eluned Morgan said: “The Veterans NHS Wales Service is the only national service of its kind in the UK for service related mental health conditions; it supports dedicated therapists in each health board to improve the mental health and wellbeing of veterans. Veterans can refer themselves and they will receive support from a therapist who has experience specifically in Service-related mental health issues.

“We are committed to supporting this extremely valuable service which benefits veterans of all ages and backgrounds across Wales.”

Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government Hannah Blythyn said: “In the past year we have delivered a new Veteran’s Railcard in Wales, and the Welsh Government has joined the ‘Great Place to Work for Veterans’ initiative;  providing guaranteed interviews for veterans who meet the basic job specifications when applying to join the civil service.

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“We know that veterans have an incredibly valuable range of skills that they can contribute to our workplaces and our communities. This package of funding and support is focused on helping them to thrive. However, during the pandemic we have seen the challenges of loneliness and isolation increase and I’m eally pleased that Welsh Government funding has helped to address this for veterans across Wales.”

BLESMA, the military charity for limbless veterans, the VC Gallery in Haverfordwest, and the Bridgend Carers Centre are amongst the charities who have worked to tackle loneliness and isolation amongst veterans in Wales over the last year.

Before the pandemic, BLESMA hosted meals alongside digital training sessions; during the pandemic they transferred their book club to run online.

The Bridgend Carers Centre provided SIM cards and tablets to isolated veterans and supported them to get online. They also ran Tai Chi and meditation sessions.

The VC Gallery in Haverfordwest supported older veterans to gain digital skills and get online during the pandemic, kept in touch with regular phone calls, ran digital art clubs and provided food parcels and welfare checks to their most vulnerable members.

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(Lead image: Crown Copyright / MOD)


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Armed Forces

RAF wows Swansea as Wales Airshow returns

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The RAF was back with a bang in the skies over Swansea this weekend as the Wales Airshow returned for the first since 2019.

Over two days, crowds lining the waterfront were treated to stunning air displays, interactive ground activities and family entertainment.

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Swansea Air Show The RAF Aerobatics Team The Red Arrows flying over Guildhall Tower (Image: RAF)

The World-famous RAF Red Arrows wowed as always, including a special formation to honour the Queen in her Platinum Jubilee year. This is called the Jubilee Present and features all seven jets turning in front of the crowd with patriotic red, white and blue colours trailing.

Red Arrows Squadron Leadr, Tom Bould (Image: RAF)

Squadron Leader Tom Bould, Red 1 and Team Leader, said: “As a team, the Red Arrows were thrilled to perform at the Wales Airshow. We always receive such a warm and enthusiastic response to our display here.

“Swansea Bay provides a brilliant, natural amphitheatre and it’s very satisfying to know as a display pilot that tens of thousands of people – many of them families – are lining the bay and enjoying the flying.

“Those at the event saw the Red Arrows’ new, exciting display for 2022 – featuring a special formation to mark the Platinum Jubilee.

“This show is a demonstration of teamwork, with months of preparation by our dedicated air and ground crews alike needed to ensure the display can go ahead.

“Some of these highly-skilled colleagues from our support team were also at the show in Swansea, with members of the public able to meet them and learn more about the RAF by visiting the branded Red Arrows tent.”

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The World-famous RAF Red Arrows wowed at the Wales Airshow this weekend with a special formation to mark the Jubilee year. (Image: RAF)
Richard Bevan Williams with son Henry Bevan Williams (Image: RAF)

Other air displays included the RAF Chinook helicopter display team, who are also part of a fully operational squadron. They demonstrated the skill of the pilots and the capability of the aircraft.

Flight Lieutenant Matt ‘Schmitty’ Smyth, Chinook Display Captain, said: “It’s absolutely fantastic that the Chinook Display Team was back in Swansea this year. It is always a highlight of our season. It’s also made special this year as one of our team members, Sergeant Scotty Morris is Welsh born and bred, with his family watching on the Sunday.”

Swansea Air Show Chinook display team crewman, Sergeant Scotty Morris pictured at Swansea Airport prior to displaying at Swansea Air Show (Image: RAF)
RAF Chinook helicopter display (Image: RAF)

Chinook display crewman, Sergeant Scotty Morris, said: “Having grown up in Blackwood, it is fantastic to bring the Chinook Display to Wales, as it was the first time I have had the chance to fly in front of my family in my 13-year career in the RAF. It is a privilege to fly for my son Quinn.”

Current aircraft training were represented as well by the Tutor, an aircraft used to train pilots and flown by the University of Wales Air Squadron at MoD St Athan.

Historical inspiration in the air was provided by the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, the iconic sounds of the Spitfire, Hurricane and Lancaster.

The BBMF (Battle of Britain Memoirial Flight) Lancaster, Hurricane and Spitfire. (Image: AS1 Anna Harris / RAF)
The BBMF (Battle of Britain Memoirial Flight) Lancaster, Hurricane and Spitfire. (Image: AS1 Anna Harris / RAF)

Paris Pratley-Gomez, of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, said: “It’s great to be back at Wales Airshow this year. Swansea Bay provides a beautiful setting and a great opportunity to wow the Welsh crowds once again!”

The story of the part played by Wales in the Battle of Britain is being told by an exhibition touring Wales, which is currently in Conwy and due to visit Swansea in the autumn. Created by the RAF’s Air Historical Branch and Air Officer Wales, Air Commodore Adrian Williams, it has appeared at several venues across Wales since its launch at Cardiff last September.

Air Commodore Adrian Williams, said: “It was great to see the Wales airshow back in the 2022 calendar. The RAF really looked forward to the weekend, with lots of excellent displays for the Welsh public, both in the air and on the ground. I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend. “

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It wasn’t just in the air that the Air Force was represented. In the RAF Village visitors were able to meet members of the RAF Regular and Reserve Forces and Cadets, to ask questions of the Red Arrows engineers and experience some of the equipment for themselves.

The Stegall family from Llantrisant – Emma (mum) with Lily Stegall and Lincoln Stegall and dad Luke Stegall watching the RAF Red Arrows over Swansea Bay (Image: RAF / Swansea Council)

Swansea Council Cabinet member Robert Francis-Davies said: “It was a fantastic weekend for Swansea. As the city’s reputation grows as a top class venue for big events, the annual Wales Airshow was a huge success.

“The show was also able to host the local leg of the Queen’s Baton Relay, celebrating Birmingham’s forthcoming Commonwealth Games.”

Lead image: The BBMF (Battle of Britain Memoirial Flight) Lancaster, Hurricane and Spitfire. (Image: AS1 Anna Harris. / RAF)

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Armed Forces

Swansea dignitaries mark Armed Forces Day

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The Lord Mayor of Swansea Cllr Mike Day and other local dignitaries honoured those who’ve served their country in the armed forces at a special ceremony at Swansea’s Guildhall Rotunda this morning.

Cllr Day along with the council’s Armed Forces Champion Cllr Wendy Lewis, HM the Lord Lieutenant Louise Fleet JP and the High Sheriff of West Glamorgan Stephen Rogers paid tribute to those who have served.

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Dignitaries at the Armed Forces Day event at Swansea’s Guildhall (Image: Swansea Council)

The tributes took place on the Guildhall Rotunda at 11am and also present were representatives from the armed forces, reservists, veterans and local cadet units.

The Lord Mayor said: “Armed Forces Day gives us the opportunity to celebrate our armed forces and give thanks for our serving personnel and those who have served in World Wars and other conflicts and to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for us to enjoy the freedom we have today.”

“Our Armed Forces deserve the respect and admiration of us all and we are immensely proud of them.”

(Lead image: Swansea Council)

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Armed Forces

Free swimming in Wales to continue for the Armed Forces

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On Armed Forces Day, the Welsh Government has announced the continuation of the Armed Forces Free Swimming scheme.

The scheme enables serving members of the Armed Forces and Veterans to swim for free at participating leisure centres and pools, using their Defence Privilege Card.

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The Armed Forces Free Swimming Scheme (AFFS) was first introduced in 2016 and represents the continued commitment to provide the Armed Forces community with access to services which meet their specific needs and recognise the service they have given to their country.

Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport, Dawn Bowden, said: “I’m very pleased that we are able to continue to support this scheme which is designed to ensure members of the Armed Forces past and present are able to benefit from the physical, and mental, health benefits swimming can offer.”

Deputy Minister for Social Partnerships, Hannah Blythyn, said: “We are committed to supporting our Armed Forces personnel and recognise how initiatives like this can boost their mental and physical wellbeing. I hope they can enjoy the benefits from this scheme over the next three years.”

Chris Llewelyn, WLGA Chief Executive said: “Local government is proud to deliver free swimming for our Armed Forces personnel and Veterans. We hope that even more people take part in the scheme in the coming year, taking advantage of the significant recuperative and social benefits physical activity offers. There are participating pools in each of Wales’ local authorities; to find out where your closet facility is, visit your local authority website.”

Throughout the 2021-22 financial year the scheme was taken up on average each quarter by 569 serving military personnel and veterans across Wales. The trend shows an increase in uptake as restrictions have been lifted, with the last quarter recording a peak of 879 people benefitting from 2641 visits to their local community swimming pools.

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To support the scheme, £45,000 to be issued every year over a three-year period; in 2022-23, 2023-24 and 2024-25.

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