Conference tackles community issues for armed forces personnel
- Credit: Steve Adams
Norfolk has been hailed a 'forces-friendly' county as top military figures gathered in Norwich to look at how our serving personnel and their families are supported.
In a room at Carrow Road stadium, the top brass figures gathered to discuss how the armed forces communities are treated outside of service, from the provision of school places for their children to what happens after being discharged.
The conference, hosted by Norfolk's Armed Forces Covenant Board, will shape the future direction of support offered by the Covenant for military personnel and their families in Norfolk.
The Covenant's core principles, taken from the national version, are: 'To acknowledge and understand that those who serve or who have served in the armed forces, and their families, should be treated with fairness and respect in their communities in recognition of their dedication and sacrifice.'
Norfolk has an armed forces community of 2,420 serving personnel, as well as their families, reservists, those who have served and military charities.
Serving families are often stationed in the county for one or two years before moving on. This can create practical challenges, such as ensuring access to school places or health-related services.
In particular, the issue of finding short-term dentists is being scrutinised.
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Although the issue of isolation and public transport was discussed, the county was generally praised by the speakers.
Wing commander Stew Geary said: 'I have served in 17 different locations in 29 years of service and without doubt Norfolk is the most forces-friendly county I have come across.'
The event brought together representatives from the military, military families, the government and councils, and charities to hear first-hand accounts of what it is like for the current serving population and their families based in Norfolk as well as veterans who have chosen to settle in the county.
The Covenant is supported by Norfolk County Council through an annual budget allocation of £20,000 and there are many projects underway, including an employment recognition scheme.
Norfolk armed forces commissioner Tony Tomkinson said: 'I want today to be about the future of our Covenant because I think we all agree there is still more to do.'