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Support Officer Helps Veterans Leaving the Forces

An ex-member of the Armed Forces is supporting veterans in South Tyneside to settle back into civvy life.

Lee Moore, who served ten years in the Royal Pioneer Corp, took on the role of Armed Forces Support Officer in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic last July. Since then, he has been using his experience to help his fellow ex-military personnel adjust to leaving active service - albeit remotely wherever possible, due to restrictions.

Now well settled into his role and with restrictions set to start easing, Lee is particularly looking forward to more face-to-face meetings with the people he supports, providing guidance on a range of issues, from housing and health to employment and training.

The role of the Armed Forces Support Officer is a core element in the delivery of South Tyneside Armed Forces Covenant.

South Tyneside Council first signed the Armed Forces Covenant ten years ago and has been dedicated to helping ex-service men and women, serving officers and their families to access support that they deserve. 

Lee Moore acts as a single point of contact for all armed forces related enquiries into South Tyneside Homes and coordinates services in accordance with the objectives of the Covenant.

Councillor Ed Malcolm, Chair of South Tyneside Armed Forces Forum, said: "The covenant has been at the heart of our support to the Armed Forces community, allowing them to access vital services in South Tyneside, as well as supporting the transition from service life to civilian life.

"Most service personnel cope well with the transition into civilian life when leaving the Forces. However, for others this can be a huge adjustment, with some veterans struggling with the unfamiliarity.

"This is where our Armed Forces Support Officer comes in. Lee provides advice and signposting on topics such as housing, welfare benefits, employment, health and any other matters that may arise to help veterans adapt to an independent way of life.

"The role is integral and compliments the ongoing support given to the serving and veteran armed forces community in South Tyneside."

Lee also works very closely with those housed in South Tyneside's dedicated supported accommodation, which was established by South Tyneside Homes, in partnership with South Tyneside Council in 2018. The block, in Bedford Avenue, Laygate, consists of nine spacious one and two-bedroomed furnished flats, which are made affordable for rent to ex-servicemen and women as they leave the forces.

Veterans are given housing priority status by South Tyneside Homes and are signed to a tenancy with a view to move into longer term accommodation within a year. During that time, they will be offered support, advice and assistance by the Armed Forces Support Officer as their first point of contact.

Lee Moore said: "When I left the forces, I found it tough. All the uncertainty, wondering what I'm going to do with my life. I didn't have any key skills like paying rent, bills or cooking. I was given SSAFA's contact number and they were fantastic.

"My case worker, who had served, was so understanding, and I'd like to think that being ex-services myself, I can relate to and understand the issues members of the armed forces community are facing just like my case worker did with me.

"Having ex-service personnel to support you is key - that barrier is lifted, and you gain a real sense of trust which is really important.

He added: "Starting this role during the pandemic was especially important as some people's mental health had deteriorated due to lockdowns and national restrictions, so being available to offer help and support to those feeling lower than usual was vital.

"While I've carried out most of my role over the phone and via online channels during the pandemic, I can't wait to get out and about engaging with our armed forces community again, talking to people, sharing experiences and supporting veterans in leading an independent life."

"I know first-hand how difficult it can be leaving the forces and settling back into civilian life so I'm delighted to be able to help those who may be struggling."

For more information on the wealth of support available for the Armed Forces community in South Tyneside, visit www.southtyneside.gov.uk/armedforces 

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