The north east’s largest council has again pledged its support to Armed Forces personnel, veterans and their families by re-signing the Armed Forces Covenant.
Durham County Council first signed a localised Armed Forces Community Covenant in May 2012, promising to ensure that those who serve or have served, and their families, are treated fairly and not disadvantaged in accessing public services as a result of their military service.
This week, the council demonstrated its continued commitment to supporting the Armed Forces community in County Durham, by signing a refreshed agreement. The covenant complements the National Armed Forces Covenant, which is a promise from the nation that those who serve or have served in the armed forces, and their families, are treated fairly.
Since signing the original covenant, the council has taken a range of proactive measures to fulfil its obligations and follow best practice as a supportive employer and service provider.
The introduction of an Armed Forces Forum encourages the council; Durham Constabulary; County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service; and the NHS to work with the armed forces, their families and charities. By working together, the forum’s partners are better able to take positive measures to prevent any disadvantage to individuals.
The council has implemented policies which offer up to ten days of paid leave to allow employees who are reservists or uniformed cadet force adult volunteers to attend their annual training. A scheme has also been introduced to ensure that veterans who meet essential criteria in job vacancies are guaranteed an interview.
In partnership with Gateshead Council, Newcastle City Council and Northumberland County Council, Durham County Council contributes funding to an Armed Forces Outreach Service. The service provides support to servicemen and women, reservists, veterans and their families and, working with organisations including the Royal British Legion and Citizens Advice, offers advice relating to housing, income, forces’ pensions and benefits.
In 2018, Durham County Council’s positive attitudes and policies towards serving and ex-members of the Armed Forces was recognised with a gold award in the Ministry of Defence’s Employer Recognition Scheme.
The re-signing of the Armed Forced Covenant demonstrates the council’s offer to continue helping the Armed Forces community in the county with such support, whilst also supporting with activities linked to Armed Forces Day, Reserves Day and Remembrance Day.
Cllr Amanda Hopgood, Leader of Durham County Council, said:
“We’re delighted to re-sign the covenant to show our support to the Armed Forces community. The promise to ensure those who have served in the forces, and their families, are treated fairly is an important commitment and one which we are proud to make.”