As South Tyneside prepares to mark Armed Forces Day virtually this Saturday (27 June), the Council is showcasing its commitment to the local armed forces community.
It has been nine years since South Tyneside Council first signed the official Armed Forces Community Covenant - a voluntary statement of mutual support between the civilian and local armed forces communities.
The covenant has been instrumental in providing support for the Armed Services Community, enabling past and present military personnel, and their families, access to vital services across the Borough as well as helping to ease the transition from service to civilian life.
Shortly after that, the multi-agency South Tyneside Armed Forces Forum was established to drive forward armed forces awareness raising, new policies and support projects as well as annual commemoration events, from Remembrance and Armistice to Anzac and Armed Forces Day.
Councillor Ed Malcolm, Chair of the Armed Forces Forum, said: "Armed Forces Day is an important opportunity to say a huge 'thank you' to the men and women that make up the military community and to commemorate the sacrifices they make to serve our country and keep us all safe.
"However, it also gives us a chance to highlight the wealth of work we do with our partners all year round to support our local armed forces community and to make it as easy as possible for service personnel, their families and veterans, to get the help and support they need.
"Since signing the Community Covenant in 2011, the work we have undertaken is having a really positive impact on the lives of those serving in and leaving the armed forces.
"But it doesn't stop there. We recognise that there is always more that we can do and we continue to find ways of improving the support we provide for ex-servicemen and women in our community in recognition of the sacrifices they make."
South Tyneside Council, and its partners at South Tyneside Homes, proactively support its armed forces, reservists and veterans. Staff across both organisations have received awareness training on the needs of ex-service personnel and where to direct them for additional support.
The Council is also one of a small number of authorities to hold the coveted Gold Employer Recognition Award from the Ministry of Defence for its commitment to military personnel and their families. The national Employer Recognition Scheme encourages employers to support the armed forces community and inspires other organisations to follow their lead.
South Tyneside also has an Armed Forces accommodation scheme. This dedicated 'move-on' accommodation has been developed to support veterans making the transition back into civilian life and provides a modern and safe place to live as well as access to employment, education or training.
Ex-service personnel, reservists and their families also receive one-to-one support from a dedicated outreach worker, with issues such as housing, healthcare, welfare, employment and training, benefits, injury compensation, mental health and much more. Veterans are also given housing priority status by South Tyneside Homes.
The hugely successful South Tyneside NAAFI break, which was established in 2016, is run by veterans and civilian volunteers. The face-to-face drop in service offers current and ex-Services personnel a place where they can meet, socialise, network and get advice and support on civilian life. Earlier this year, veterans appointed Lieutenant General Robin Brims as their first Patron.
South Tyneside Council is marking this year's Armed Forces Day with a virtual tribute across its social media channels.
Councillor Malcolm added: "Although our usual Armed Forces Day celebrations in collaboration with the Bad-Landers Motorcycle Club are not going ahead this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, we are still marking the event, but in a different way.
"We are encouraging people to get involved in our virtual celebrations, by sharing photos and activity across our social media channels using the hashtag #SaluteOurForces."
Follow South Tyneside Council's social media channels and share Armed Forces Day activities and celebrations on Facebook STynesideCouncil and LoveSTyneside and on Twitter @STyne_Council and @LoveSTyneside.