Stockton Council has marked its support for the local services community by adopting an Armed Forces Community Covenant.
The covenant is a voluntary statement of mutual support between a civilian community and its local armed forces representatives. It not only recognises the contribution of serving personnel, their families and veterans but importantly it identifies practical ways the Council can help them access support to help them adjust to life after leaving the services.
In turn, the armed forces promote ties with the local community and offer support wherever they can.
Many of the commitments made in Stockton follow an award-winning review by all the region's councils into the health needs of ex-service personnel.
Although this found most were able to move successfully back into civilian life, it also identified opportunities to help them avoid disadvantage due to their time in the Forces and to support those who may need extra help.
Stockton Council now has an action plan to assist with health and care needs, housing, employability and communicating with local services.
It includes developing dedicated information pages on the Council's website, providing a special phone number for veterans to use for extra advice, and raising staff awareness of the needs of ex-service residents.
Councillor Bob Cook, Leader of the Council, said: "There is so much respect for those who have served in our armed forces but some of them can find it hard to adjust to civilian life.
"By signing the Community Covenant, we are formally acknowledging our role in helping these people to thrive in their local community, once they no longer have the everyday support network which serving in the armed forces brings."
Councillors will act as 'champions' for ex-service residents and the Council and NHS will monitor the health needs of this community. Other members of Stockton Renaissance, the local strategic partnership, have also signed up to the principles in the Community Covenant, including Cleveland Police, local NHS services, Cleveland Fire Brigade, JobCentre Plus, Teesside Probation Service and Catalyst on behalf of local voluntary and community services.
Lieutenant Colonel Ian Adkins, Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME), said: "The Stockton Armed Forces Community Covenant is a fantastic initiative which we are very proud to be involved with. Stockton has always been a service-friendly town, with the local community supporting their local personnel, both past and present, and their families.
"The Covenant will help cement that support at a local level, and ensure that our Armed Forces, veterans and their families have the support they need and are treated with the dignity they deserve."
Having already awarded the Freedom of the Borough to the Rifles and the Yorkshire Regiment, the Council recently agreed to confer a similar honour on the RAF and Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME). The Royal British Legion is one of the current Mayor of Stockton’s charities.
Image shows Wing Commander James Pruden RAF, the Mayor of Stockton Councillor Paul Baker, Commander David Pickthall RN, the Leader of Stockton Council Councillor Bob Cook and Lt-Col Ian Adkins REME.