Armed services support scheme moves into Northumberland

Armed forces personnel, both serving and retired, will now be offered extra support in Northumberland and County Durham, thanks to a successful project which started five years ago in Gateshead.

The Armed Forces Outreach Service which began in 2012, will now extend into Northumberland and County Durham, after the three local authorities successfully bid for a grant worth over £240,000 from the Armed Forces Community Covenant Scheme.

The project started as a pilot scheme in Gateshead, managed by Gateshead Council. It became so successful, it attracted interest from other areas and has been operating in Newcastle, North Tyneside and South Tyneside since 2014. 

Now situated within the Gateshead Housing Company, but still managed by the council, the service offers support to help solve any housing, employment, healthcare or skills needs of armed forces personnel and their families.

Outreach workers act as a single point of contact in each local authority for the armed forces community, regarding queries or problems they may be facing when returning to civilian life. It is also a crisis prevention service and helps with training and education, job finding assistance and advice and guidance on housing and financial management. It also acts as a signposting service to support from government departments and the voluntary and community sectors.  

Since 2012, the service has helped over 700 service personnel and their families and only a year after it began, won a prestigious local government award, the Municipal Journal (MJ) ‘Delivering Better Outcomes Award’.

Now money from the Community Covenant Fund will mean that both counties of Northumberland and County Durham can each employ two outreach workers to offer help and support to their own armed forces communities.

Jackie Roll, Armed Forces Support Officer with Northumberland County Council, said: “We have a long standing commitment to the armed forces community in Northumberland and I’m delighted this extremely worthwhile service is being extended into our county.

“Veterans and their families can face a range of issues on their return to civilian life and this outreach service has already proved invaluable in helping them in other parts of the region.” 

Gateshead Council Armed Forces Champion, Councillor Stuart Green, said: “The work our armed forces do on behalf of us all should never be underestimated or forgotten and it is vital that we support them when they return to our communities. Gateshead Council has long been a committed supporter of the armed forces and has always been keen to do anything we can to help our serving and retired personnel.

“We’ve been proud to play a key role in recognising and meeting their specific needs and our outreach service has had a tremendous amount of success, not only in Gateshead, but all over Tyneside.

“It is very gratifying that the scheme is now being extended even further and we are absolutely delighted at having the opportunity to work with Northumberland and County Durham, to offer service personnel living in those areas the support and assistance that has worked so well across Tyneside in the last five years.” 

Gordon Elliott, Durham County Council’s head of partnerships and community engagement, said: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with Gateshead and Northumberland Councils to extend the Armed Forces Outreach Service into County Durham. This will enable us to provide support to members of the armed forces community who are in particular need.”
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