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Armed Forces

Wales marks Remembrance

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The Minister responsible for veteran’s support in Wales has thanked past and present Armed Forces personnel for their bravery, as the nation remembers the sacrifices of all personnel since World War One.

Speaking in the Senedd earlier this week, Deputy Minister for Social Partnership, Hannah Blythyn, said: “November serves as a poignant opportunity for us all to remember, reflect and recognise all who fought in previous conflicts from across the UK and Commonwealth Countries, and the tremendous bravery and sacrifices they made to preserve our way of life.

“Whether at home or abroad, for those who have served and those who have paid the ultimate price; they will be remembered. Their sacrifices enable us all to live our lives with the freedom we have today.

“The remembrance period is also important so that future generations understand past conflicts, so we can learn the lessons from them and ensure peace for generations to come.”

The Minister also praised current personnel for the support they’ve provided over the course of the pandemic.

“We must also not forget our current Serving personnel and their families, at home and abroad, for the sacrifices they make in keeping us safe in our communities today.

“I would like to take this opportunity to pay a special tribute to the men and women of our current Armed Services who continue to work tirelessly alongside others, to help our nation overcome the unprecedented challenges associated with Covid-19.

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“They have stepped up and provided the Welsh Government and the people of Wales with vital support. This has included supporting the vaccine roll-out, assisting the Welsh Ambulance Service Trust, delivering PPE and food distribution. We owe them a debt of gratitude and thank them for their support.”

2021 marks 10 years since organisations across Wales signed up to the Armed Forces Covenant. 

The Covenant was put in place to help ensure past and present members of the Armed Forces community are not disadvantaged when accessing services and those who have given the most, such as the injured or bereaved, receive special consideration. The Welsh Government is also currently working with UK and other devolved Governments on the Armed Forces Bill to further embed the Covenant into law.

In Wales, support provided as part of the Armed Forces Covenant includes: a Resettlement Guide for service leavers and families; guaranteed interview schemes; funding support for veterans’ mental health services and for children of Armed Forces personnel; and funding for charities to tackle loneliness and social isolation amongst ex-Service personnel.

Additionally, former personnel – whether Regular, Reservist or those who undertook National Service – are being urged by the Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing, Lynne Neagle, to ensure they let their GP know they have served their country to access priority treatment, including for mental health support.

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She said: “We are committed to the Armed Services Covenant, recognising the whole nation has a moral obligation to members of the Armed Forces and their families, and it establishes how they should expect to be treated.

“Health services can support veterans effectively when they are known to them. It’s vital that veterans identify themselves to healthcare professionals to access the right support when they need it.

“At this time of remembrance, and with the recent events in Afghanistan, we want to make sure military veterans living in Wales know where to go if they need help.

“Our ‘Veterans’ NHS Wales’ is the only specialised mental health service provision for veterans in the UK. It provides dedicated veterans’ therapists in each Health Board, offering approved therapies for a range of mental health problems, specific to veterans, to improve mental health and well-being.”

A number of events have taken place over the last fortnight commemorating those who have given and continue to give their lives to the Armed Forces, including a Field of Remembrance at Cardiff Castle and a Memorial Service for Ethnic Minority and Commonwealth Servicemen and Women.

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Sunday’s National Service of Remembrance will be marked with an event at the war memorial in Cardiff’s Cathays Park, attended by the First Minister Mark Drakeford.

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Armed Forces

Little Troopers at School: Swansea military children take part in charity workshop 

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Military children from four primary schools in and around Swansea took part in a free virtual workshop run by the charity Little Troopers.

The children, who all have parents currently serving in the British Armed Forces, logged in to the Little Troopers at School workshop with 260 other children from across Wales. 

Using storytelling, imaginative play, drawing, movement and drama, the children got to explore some of the unique challenges that forces life can bring, such as having a parent deployed overseas and regularly having to move home and school.

The schools that took part from Swansea included Ysgol Tan Y Lan, YGG Gellionnen, Penllergaer Primary School and Rhydyfro Primary School. 

The workshop was funded by the Armed Forces Covenant Trust and delivered as part of Supporting Service Children in Education (SSCE) Cymru, which is run by the Welsh Local Government Association and aims to provide the best possible educational support for Service children in Wales. There are estimated to be more than 2,500 military children in schools across the country. 

Kevin Davies, a teacher from YGG Gellionnen said: “The children thoroughly enjoyed the activities and were beaming at the end of the session.” 

Louise Fetigan, founder and operations manager at Little Troopers, comments: “We were delighted to be asked by the Welsh Government Association to deliver some of our Little Troopers at School resources to children in Wales through this virtual workshop. Our charity is committed to ensuring that all schools have a good understanding of the unique challenges that military life can bring and that all military children can access support at school if they need it. We hope that the children have had lots of fun today and enjoyed coming together to celebrate what it really means to be a ‘Little Trooper’.” 

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The workshop is part of a wider nationwide partnership between Little Troopers and SSCE Cymru which has also seen 400 primary schools in Wales receive bilingual versions of Little Troopers storybooks for their school libraries and 100 schools given bilingual copies of the Little Troopers Primary Wellbeing Course template; a six-week course focusing on the themes of belonging, identity, mindfulness, managing change and coping with separation. 

Millie Taylor, SSCE Cymru Programme Manager, adds: “It’s really important that all schools have a welcoming Armed Forces friendly environment and that service children feel acknowledged and supported. Our partnership with Little Troopers has really helped us to achieve this by providing fundamental resources, that are specifically catered towards supporting service children, to all schools in Wales. This week’s workshop has been a real celebration of service children and their experiences and we hope to build on the success of SSCE Cymru in 2022; continuing to provide all service children in Wales with the support they deserve.” 

For more information visit www.littletroopers.net and www.SSCECymru.co.uk

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Swansea

Fund established to support city’s veterans

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Swansea armed forces veterans are being urged to take advantage of a Veterans’ Fund set up by the Council.

The £25,000 fund was agreed by the Council as part of its budget for 2021/22 and armed forces veterans can apply to the fund for help.

The fund is among a range of support available to veterans or serving members of the armed forces under the council’s Armed Forces Community Covenant.

Rob Stewart, Leader of the Council, said: “On Remembrance Day we should never forget that support for the armed forces is a year-round duty for us all.

“The veterans’ budget aims to provide a little bit of extra support to veterans or serving members of the armed forces.

He said: “The fund will support initiatives which address veterans issues, and the veterans themselves.  The fund welcomes new initiatives/innovations and will seed fund new ideas.

“Charitable or voluntary organisations, those with charitable objectives and not-for-private-profit organisations, are eligible apply. If the grant is to support an individual the grant will be paid via the applicant organisation, individuals cannot apply for Grant funding directly.”

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Wendy Lewis, the council’s armed forces champion, said: “I meet with veterans and veterans’ groups frequently and I know just how important it is to them that the community around them are supportive.

“I’m confident this new fund will also make a difference to those who need it.”

Cllr Lewis said: “Communities in Swansea have a proud heritage of service in the armed forces. Our support for past and current members of the armed forces is unstinting and year-round.

“As a council we’ve also made a commitment to adopt our city’s community war memorials and cenotaphs to ensure they are looked after for future generations. It’s been a job the veterans have done for many years.

“But we want to reassure them that their communities are playing their part too for the future.”

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The application page for grants will be going on the Council’s Armed Forces web page in the coming days.

(Lead image: Swansea Council)

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Armed Forces

Health board honours veterans with vaccine-vial wreaths

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The wreaths were made using the tops of COVID vaccine vials.

The health board explained that support officer Douglas Mottram came up with the idea to recycle and repurpose the tops of vaccine vials to create a poppy after spending time working in vaccination centres.

The VC Gallery, who support veterans and members of the armed forces community particularly through the promotion of arts and crafts created five wreaths, made from the tops of vaccine vials recycled from vaccination centres.

Anna Bird, Assistant Director of Strategic Partnerships, Diversity and Inclusion, said: “The armed forces have played a huge role in supporting the Covid-19 response in Hywel Dda, working in our vaccination centres earlier in the year as part of their national deployment.

“The creation of these wreaths seemed a fitting way to acknowledge their contribution and to honour and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice.”

Maria Battle, Chair of Hywel Dda UHB, said: “It is wonderful how Anna, Doug and the rest of the Strategic Partnership teams have brought together this innovative idea with the help of the VC Gallery.

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“These wreaths give us just a small glimpse of how many lives the Covid-19 vaccine has saved.

“They symbolise the heroic response, self-sacrifice and absolute commitment of our staff and our veterans in the war against the pandemic, and remembering those who have lost their lives, their loved ones and our staff who died and who cared for the sick and dying.”

(Lead image: Hywel Dda NHS)

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