Military charities’ Herefordshire service praised by Minister

Jesse Norman speaking in the House of CommonsA scheme that links volunteers from the Royal British Legion and SSAFA with military families and veterans in Herefordshire has been praised in parliament by the Minister for the Armed Forces, Mark Francois. The Minister was replying to a question from local MP, Jesse Norman, about the government’s progress on strengthening the military covenant.

The military charities advice service, which operates from Herefordshire Council’s Franklin House offices on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and in Ross-on-Wye library every Monday was established in July 2013 and is supported by Herefordshire Council and the Herefordshire Armed Forces Community Covenant Task Group. It provides advice and signposting to armed forces personnel, their families and veterans on a range of issues, including welfare and benefits, housing and education.

Herefordshire Council is one of a number of councils around UK that have signed a community covenant, which sets out in writing the local authority’s commitment to supporting our armed forces.

Speaking after defence questions yesterday, Jesse said: “The Herefordshire military charities advice service is an excellent example of charities working together with the local authority in order to provide real services to people in need. Herefordshire Council has done some very good work on promoting the community covenant and I was pleased to be able to highlight it to the Minister.”

The full exchange from Hansard is below:

Military Covenant

6. Jesse Norman (Hereford and South Herefordshire) (Con): What progress he has made on strengthening the military covenant. [904804]

The Minister for the Armed Forces (Mr Mark Francois): The armed forces covenant is a symbol of the debt we owe to servicemen and women, veterans, and their families. As the House will be aware, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence reports annually to Parliament on progress in implementing the covenant.

Since the last report was published in December 2013, significant achievements include the allocation of £40 million to fund accommodation projects for veterans and the establishment of the £200 million forces Help to Buy Scheme. I am also delighted to say that the vast bulk of local authorities in Great Britain, from borough councils to county councils, have signed a community covenant, a tangible commitment to supporting our armed forces

Jesse Norman: I welcome today’s announcement of released extra investment in special forces, which will be very welcome in my constituency. The Royal British Legion and SSAFA have set up a new military charities advice service in Hereford and in Ross-on-Wye, supported by Herefordshire council. Will the Minister join me in praising the volunteers who staff that new service, and the council, which has taken a leading role in promoting the community covenant?

Mr Francois: I am very happy to praise my hon. Friend’s council and the volunteers who do such vital work for the wider armed forces community, and I am extremely happy to praise those two very good charities, not least as we in the Ministry of Defence for some while have been encouraging charities to work more closely together—what one might in the military community call the principle of combined arms—and to see these two great charities combining forces for the benefit of the wider armed forces family is excellent, and I commend them on their efforts.