The MOD and Wigan Council joined forces today to launch the Armed Forces Community Welfare Pathway initiative in Wigan to enable serving personnel, their families and veterans to receive the help, advice and support they need from the people best placed to provide it.
Wigan Council is the third local authority to pilot the Welfare Pathway. Members of the Armed Forces Community will be able to access advice on their entitlements by visiting council offices or calling 01942 244991. The Armed Forces Community will be able to get advice on everything from priority healthcare to housing and education, as well as link with Service and veterans’ charities and the Citizens Advice Bureau.
This is all supported by a single free national telephone number – 08000 223366 – that provides automated options for both in-Service and ex-Service personnel, their families and widows to use as an initial port of call, if uncertain of who to contact. It’s not intended to replace existing sources of advice, but it provides a safety net for those who are completely unaware of what is available.
Veterans Minister Kevan Jones said:
“As part of our continued support for the Armed Forces Community, we are committed to improving how our Service men and women, their families and veterans can access help and advice about the things that are important to them. By making one phone call to Wigan Council (01942 244991) or the national telephone number (08000 223366), the Armed Forces Community can access advice on what they are entitled to. The support that our people deserve is out there and we want to make sure that they can take full advantage of that. I thank Wigan Council for all their support.”
Lord Peter Smith, Leader of Wigan Council said:
“Wigan Council is delighted to be only the third local authority in the UK to pilot this joint initiative between local and central government. Wigan has strong links to the Armed Forces; Service men and women and veterans are an important part of the wider Greater Manchester and Lancashire communities. Here, in Wigan, we have a dedicated team of people ready to help. If there is a problem with what people are entitled to, there is now a simple route to raise issues and get things resolved. This council is immensely proud of the contribution of service men and women from the borough. We are pleased that we will be at the front line of helping to deliver services to members of the armed forces community.”
Des White, Chairman of the Wigan Borough Veterans Council said:
“We welcome the Welfare pathway initiative which builds on the framework we have already set up to provide practical advice and guidance for the veterans’ element of the Armed Forces Community in Wigan.”
Anthony Forsyth, Royal British Legion County Chairman for West Lancashire said:
“The Royal British Legion’s role is to safeguard the welfare, interests and memory of those who are serving or who have served in the armed forces. Any initiative that coordinates welfare delivery to the service community has the support of the Royal British Legion. Welfare services are currently provided by a wide range of charities and government departments, so improving information and communication is a positive step forward.”
Ken Ward, Secretary of the Wigan Division of the Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen Families Association – Forces Help said:
“SSAFA Forces Help is delighted to be involved, with Government, in developing the Welfare Pathway concept and welcomes this initiative, which aims to provide a seamless welfare service for serving and ex-serving personnel and their families through the use of a single national point of contact.”
Several other Local Authorities will establish similar pilot programmes across the UK. The intention is to roll out a best practice model to cover all areas.
Some of the benefits that Serving personnel, families and veterans can receive are:
• advice about access to NHS services,
• information about help for veterans with mental health problems,
• help and advice about education, skills and careers,
• affordable and social housing,
• help with transport including Blue Badges and concessionary transport,
• advice about, and access to, affordable childcare.
During the launch, Veterans Minister Kevan Jones will also present Veterans Badges to several local veterans.
Notes for Editors
1) For those who are not sure where to turn for advice, help and support can be accessed via a freephone National Point of Contact: 08000 223366. It is not intended to replace the existing sources of advice like Citizens Advice Bureaux, GPs, Government organisations or the Third Sector.
2) This initiative underpins the commitments set out in The Nation’s Commitment: Cross-Government Support to our Armed Forces, their Families and Veterans (www.mod.uk/spcp).
3) The Armed Forces Community includes Service personnel, their families, widows and veterans.
4) An Armed Forces Community Champion will assist the Armed Forces Community resolve any problems they may experience in receiving their statutory entitlements, such as priority NHS treatment and affordable housing schemes. In Wigan, the Champion is Councillor Keith Cunliffe.
5) Other local authorities which are signing up to this initiative include Fife (with the support of the Scottish Government) and North Yorkshire.
Phone: For enquiries please contact the above department