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Armed Forces

10 year Anniversary of National Support for Armed Forces Personnel

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As celebrations take place across the country for Armed Forces Week [21 to 27 June], this year’s events also mark 10 years since organisations across Wales signed up to the Armed Forces Covenant.  

The Covenant was established to help ensure past and present members of the Armed Forces community are not disadvantaged when accessing services, and that they receive special consideration, for example, for access to health services if their condition is Service related.

In Wales, this commitment to the Covenant has included:

  • Increasing NHS funding specifically for veterans for physical and mental health services;
  • A Welsh-specific Resettlement Guide for Service leavers and families;
  • Guaranteed interview schemes for ex-Service personnel;
  • Funding support for children of Armed Forces personnel;
  • Funding for charities to tackle loneliness and social isolation amongst ex-Service personnel.
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Deputy Minister for Social Partnership, Hannah Blythyn, visited Hightown Barracks in Wrexham yesterday.

Deputy Minister for Social Partnership, Hannah Blythyn

She said: “Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, our serving Armed Forces and veterans have continued to provide invaluable support and expertise to communities across the country.

“Armed Forces Week provides us with the platform and opportunity to recognise and reflect on the considerable part our Armed Forces, past and present, have played in keeping our communities safe. They rightly deserve our gratitude and appreciation.”

The VC Gallery in Pembrokeshire is one charity which has received funding from the Welsh Government to specifically support ex-Service personnel. This recent funding allowed them to support veterans in remote areas to address isolation and break down barriers to getting support.

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Barry John MBE

Speaking about the Gallery’s work, co-ordinator Barry John MBE, said: “VC Gallery hosts a variety of events, both culturally and socially, for ex-Service personnel as well as the wider community. We passionately believe art and culture can improve health, wellbeing and overall quality of life.

“Maintaining close links between the military and community is essential to ensure they and their families stay connected, have better health outcomes and positive experiences after their service. We will continue to work alongside the NHS and Local Authority services for the greater good of all our military personnel across Wales.

“Our recent project during the pandemic gave us the ability to ask ex-Service personnel and their families directly to tell us what support they needed and, importantly, what access to wider support services and organisations they’d like to see.” 

Wales is the only country in the UK to have recruited Armed Forces Liaison Officers. Funded as part of Welsh Government’s commitment to supporting current and ex-Serving personnel.

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Lisa Rawlings is one of eight Armed Forces Liaison Officers (AFLOs) across Wales.

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Lisa Rawlings, AFLO for Gwent

Having spent 25 years in the RAF, she now provides policy guidance across 5 Local Authorities in Gwent as well as helping to facilitate the right support for current and ex-Serving personnel and their families.

Lisa said: “As a veteran myself I am passionate about the Armed Forces community. My job as an AFLO means I advise and assist – from the perspective of the Armed Forces and their families – in the development, implementation and monitoring of key council and partnership plans, priorities and strategic initiatives.

“This includes delivering awareness training to make sure we continue to redress the disadvantages that the Armed Forces community may face in comparison to other citizens, and to recognise sacrifices made.”

As AFLO’s cover the 22 Local Authorities of Wales, they are able to identify issues and best practice for consideration at an all-Wales level.

Lisa continued: “Collaboration is absolutely key. Public bodies, third sector organisations, and the military and Armed Forces community are working hard to ensure that no one faces disadvantages due to their service.”

Additionally as part of Armed Forces Week, Wales’ first Resettlement Guide will be published on Thursday highlighting the support in place for Serving personnel and their families wishing to re-locate to Wales.

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(Lead image: CPL BEN BECKETT RLC /MoD Crown Copyright)


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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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Armed Forces

Free breakfast for Armed Forces as Tesco recognise Armed Forces Day

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cooked food

Members of the Armed Forces will be able to get a free hot breakfast at Tesco cafés across Wales to mark the Armed Forces Day celebration in June.

As a thank you for their service, on Sunday June 26, all serving Armed Forces personnel, around 159,000 regulars and 32,000 reservists, can present their MOD90 identification card at any Tesco café and get a free full cooked breakfast, vegan cooked breakfast, sausage bap or a bacon bap.

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All 295 Tesco cafés across England, Scotland and Wales will be offering the promotion – limited to one free breakfast per cardholder.

Ashwin Prasad, Chief Product Officer at Tesco and Director Sponsor of the Armed Forces Network said: “We’re proud to be able to support National Armed Forces Day which celebrates the tremendous contribution that the armed forces make to our country. It’s an exciting opportunity for store colleagues across the country to celebrate. Everyone loves a free breakfast and we thought it was a gesture that showed how much we value members of the Armed Forces.”

Rhys Little, Chair of the Armed Forces Network at Tesco, said: “We’ve got a long history of getting behind those who have been in the forces. We’ve received the Gold award from the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme twice now (in 2016 and 2020), and we were also the first retailer to sign the Armed Forces Covenant in 2014. We also do our best to give anyone leaving the army, navy, or RAF a chance to forge a new career.”

Over the weekend of June 25 and 26, local events will be taking place in towns, cities, and villages up and down the country, and Tesco stores will be holding a nationwide collection for Help for Heroes.

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