The Armed Forces Community Welfare Pathway is the latest MoD initiative aimed at helping serving personnel, their families and veterans receive the advice and support they need to meet a whole range of health, social and economic issues and to ensure they have consistent, easy and direct access to the services to which they are entitled.
The Welfare Pathway provides a 'one-stop-shop' that brings together the local council, community organisations, Citizen Advice Bureaux, the NHS, Service charities, etc to deliver a complete advice service that is tailored to the needs of the military community - for example:
- advice about access to NHS services;
- information about help for veterans with mental health problems;
- help and advice about education, skills and careers;
- help with affordable and social housing;
- help with transport, including Blue Badges and concessionary transport;
- advice about, and access to, affordable childcare.
The Pathway is a step along the road outlined by Bod Ainsworth in his proposal to introduce an Armed Forces Community Charter. This charter would set out the individual and specific rights of the Armed Forces community and the duty placed on public bodies to fulfil them. It has been suggested that such a charter could actually be made legally binding on public bodies. It al;so fits in with the commitments set out in the Service Personnel Command Paper, 'The Nation's Commitment: Cross-Government Support to our Armed Forces, their Families and Veterans'.
The project was launched last November in Kent and has since been rolled out in Hampshire and today in Wigan and it is expected that local "Gateways" will soon be opening up across the country. A dedicated national helpline (08000 22 33 66) has also been set up.
Despite the tired nulabour jargon which surrounds it, this scheme certainly has the promise of being able to cut through otherwise daunting bureaucracy and bring speedy solutions to the people who really deserve it.
NDS: Armed Forces Community Welfare Pathway for Wigan launches today
MoD: Armed Forces Welfare Pathway launched in Hampshire