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Test Valley to boost support for Armed Forces

Military personnel, their families and veterans in Test Valley are expected to receive further support following a review of the borough council’s Armed Forces Community Covenant.

At last night’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee, members backed a range of recommendations which would see an increase in partnership working to support areas including housing, health and community engagement for both serving and former members of the Armed Forces.

In December 2019, Test Valley Borough Council’s (TVBC) scrutiny committee requested a review of the council’s commitment to the Armed Forces Community Covenant. They set up a dedicated panel to undertake the work, led by the authority’s Armed Forces champion, councillor Nick Matthews.

The panel initially began by revisiting the challenges faced by Armed Forces personnel and their families, including limited local support networks, disruptions to children’s education and limited job opportunities for service spouses due to being posted to different locations. As well as those challenges faces by veterans such as transition in healthcare and seeking new employment.

They then looked at what TVBC had already put in place and found that the council was successfully meeting its promise under the covenant but identified opportunities for improvement, including enhancing communication with partner organisations and leading on a more inclusive approach to supporting Armed Forces communities within Test Valley.

They developed a proposed action plan to address the issues, which includes setting up a single point of contact for personnel through the TVBC website and working with partners to ensure they have a clear process of identifying veterans and their families and encouraging them to actively seek the required support.

Other improvements include increasing awareness of the mental health and complex needs of the military community and researching and signposting service leavers and veterans to support grants. 

The panel recommended the creation of a new civilian / military forum to take forward the actions identified in the review. The new forum would be intrinsically linked to the Test Valley Partnership, which includes a range of organisations from across the borough who work together to support the community. 

Armed Forces champion, Cllr Nick Matthews, said: “We remain absolutely committed to working with our partners to honour, support and help the Armed Forces and their families, recognising the many sacrifices that they make. The recommended action plan provides a clear and concise way forward to enable us to continue to enhance the lives of serving personnel, veterans and their families.” 

Leader of the council, Cllr Phil North said: “I welcome the outcomes of the OSCOM review and would like to thank Cllr Nick Matthews for leading on this hugely important piece of work. It’s essential we continue to review the support we provide to our military communities and whilst I’m pleased the panel found that the council is already meeting the promise it made when it signed the covenant nine years ago, there is always an opportunity to do more.” 

The recommendations from OSCOM will now go to cabinet for final approval in February, ahead of the action plan being implemented.