That’s the view of the Armed Forces champion, whose 2018-19 report was presented to yesterday’s (Wednesday, May 1) annual meeting of the council.
A report on the work that has been carried out to support those in the military and their families in Northumberland is submitted each year as part of the authority’s responsibilities under the Armed Forces Community Covenant.
And Coun Dave Ledger’s assertion about the county leading the way is supported by the fact that the council received the MOD Employers Recognition Scheme Gold Award from Prince Edward last November.
Building on the silver award received in 2015, the gold represents the highest badge of honour available to those that employ and support those who serve, veterans and their families.
But the report claims that ‘by far the biggest achievement’ has been the outreach work carried out by Jonny Harrison, appointed in September 2017, and Paul Havelock, appointed in February 2018, following a successful joint bid with Durham which saw each county awarded a £260,000 Covenant Grant.
Since their appointment, the outreach service has dealt with 263 cases, with 39 ongoing and new referrals received each week.
‘Of particular note, they have raised over £52,000 from service charities to help pay for white and brown goods, clear rent arrears (which have prevented eviction), helped 14 homeless veterans find secure accommodation and also provided two mobility scooters with assistance from the Royal British Legion,’ the report continues.
‘They established a monthly Breakfast Club for veterans commencing last June which is extremely popular.’
At the meeting, Coun Gordon Castle, the council’s veterans’ champion, said: “We are at the forefront of this across the nation now.
“It’s in the interests of the whole county that we have our Armed Forces looked after not just when they are serving, but also when they leave and some of them inevitably face problems.”
Coun Ledger added: “Northumberland is absolutely perched in the right place and I found out recently how well we are regarded.”
The annual report also noted that the council’s Armed Forces Forum ‘remains very active and well attended’.
It explains: ‘It acts as a mechanism to review the actions taken by the council and partners to implement the covenant objectives and provide an opportunity to share best practice.
‘Northumberland County Council also provides the administrative support for the joint North East Armed Forces Forum on behalf of the 12 North East local authorities.
‘Both forum groups have dedicated remits and wide membership, including all services, charities, business links, career transition partnership and many more.’
Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service