Armed forces support helping veterans 'open up about trauma'

‘Exceptional’ support for thousands of military veterans is ‘helping them open up about trauma’, town hall chiefs have claimed.

Tameside’s executive cabinet has agreed to formally update its governance around the ‘armed forces covenant’, which is a commitment by councils to support members of the armed forces community in their area.

The town hall report states that although most people transitioning from military to civilian life do so ‘seamlessly’ and with the appropriate support, ‘some do not’.

The aim is to ensure that they receive the support they need in ‘recognition of their dedication and sacrifice’, as well as promoting understanding and awareness of the issues affecting servicemen and women.

This in turn helps to integrate the armed forces community back into local life, officers say.

Dr Ashwin Ramachandra told the meeting that the covenant commitment by the council and the NHS locally had helped people open up about their experiences, which is ‘definitely a positive’.

“People won’t really come out and disclose if they are ex-military and that is quite surprising but actually these are issues that can affect their whole life,” he said.

“I’ve been helping a person for almost ten years with a lot of issues, but never once had he ever disclosed that he was in the armed forces, eventually when all these things popped up he had the courage to open up.

“He said that all these things that he was struggling with and with which we were trying to help him open up, it was an incident where he was stationed in Ireland and he had seen one of his mates who was standing right next to him blown up.

“And the trauma that he was going through he would not disclose to anyone and I think since this whole thing, the awareness that’s come from this has made it easier for him to open up.”

There are currently approximately 7,500 ex-service personnel living in Tameside, most of whom are ex-army, but some have also served in the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy.

The borough has a ‘significantly high number’ of early service leavers with the average age on leaving military service being 35.

For the work that they have done as part of the covenant, the council has been granted gold employer recognition status in partnership with the Ministry of Defence.

The cabinet reports states this accolade is ‘rarely awarded’ and usually only to organisations with a very ‘substantial military footprint’ such as garrison towns.

Tameside is currently the only local authority in Greater Manchester to receive the honour.

Cabinet member for employment, Councillor Ged Cooney said they had been one of the ‘leading lights’ for how the covenant should work in practice.

“It is a statement that we are making, it’s a build up of what we’ve already been doing regarding housing, health, and also this looks at inactivity, alcoholism, and all sorts of problems with people who have left the armed forces,” he added.

“It adds to what we’re already doing exceptionally well.”

Localised schemes in the borough include an initiative to make sure ex-service men and women can access the right kind of medical services and primary care.

In 2016, the Tameside Armed Services Community voluntary organisation was established – and a Sports England funded project ‘moving forces’ was launched to work with issues around physical inactivity, alcohol dependency and isolation of returning personnel.

It has resulted in Greater Manchester wide activity with several veterans sports teams being established.

Bosses in Tameside are also using an armed forces covenant grant to help ‘high level engineering personnel’ from the military  come into the borough.

The idea of a covenant stems from the ‘military covenant’ which has existed since the reign of Henry VIII, and was formalised by the government in 2011.

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