Region adopts military covenant

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MAJOR strides forward have been made to provide support for troops across the region since the Yorkshire Post launched its appeal last month.

Yorkshire has become the first region in the country to officially adopt an historic new document to protect vulnerable soldiers when the Yorkshire and Humber Local Government Association (LGA) – a partnership of all 32 councils across the region – collectively agreed to commit to the Government’s new Armed Forces Community Covenant.

The covenant enshrines in law the moral obligation that members of the military and their families are owed a long-term duty of care for their service for the country.

Meanwhile, the NHS Yorkshire and the Humber Armed Forces Network has been officially launched at North Yorkshire’s Catterick Garrison to cope with the fall-out from next year’s deployment to Afghanistan which will represent Yorkshire’s biggest military commitment since the Second World War.

A new personnel recovery centre for wounded soldiers also opened at Catterick Garrison last month, and is braced to cope with a demand far outstripping anywhere else in the country

Yorkshire and the North East currently provide 16,550 soldiers, 11 per cent of the regular Army, with the MoD aiming to recruit a total of 17 per cent of its troops from the area.

In the past month alone since the Yorkshire Post Christmas Appeal was launched, Yorkshire has suffered its bloodiest month in Afghanistan on record with three young soldiers killed.

Army chiefs have said the £11,057.77 raised in the campaign will also now make a major difference to supporting soldiers and their families.

In the past year, ABF The Soldiers’ Charity helped almost 4,000 individuals, with an average grant of £800. Almost 10 per cent of the money given to soldiers, former soldiers and their families has been spent in this region, with £271,000 given to individuals in the North East.

One recent beneficiary is Lance Corporal Robbie Wilson, 27, of Bedale, near Northallerton.

Following a six month tour of Iraq in 2006, LCpl Wilson was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and is soon set to leave the Army due to the nature of the mental trauma he has endured.

To help him readjust to civilian life, ABF – The Soldiers’ Charity paid for a course to qualify as a cable installation engineer and after completing it a few weeks ago, LCpl Wilson has secured a job working on the London Underground. He currently works five days a week in London before returning to Yorkshire at the weekend to be with his wife and childhood sweetheart Angela.

“My PTSD was something that I was able to cope with at first but then led to my health deteriorating rapidly,” he said. “It took me a while to realise who I should talk to about it and for me there was a lot of embarrassment around it. I stopped sleeping properly and I soon found it difficult to do the job I always wanted to do. When I came back from tour the exercises we practised could massively trigger it. It was extremely difficult for Angela as well.

“I had no qualifications when I joined the Army but now I am really confident that I can put all this behind me. The help I received from ABF and the personnel recovery unit at Catterick has benefited every aspect of my life. The amount of support I have received has been amazing. The fact that ABF is there for life for soldiers is massively reassuring to know.”

Wendy Searle, communications manager for ABF – The Soldiers’ Charity, said: “We take pride on helping families and veterans as well as serving soldiers, which means we are on hand to help people of any age. We offer assistance with home adaptations, specialised wheelchairs and white goods, as well as so many other essentials. With so many Army families and former soldiers in the Yorkshire region, we work closely with Army units and other military charities to give vital support in the area.”

The Yorkshire Post Christmas Appeal was based around an online auction sponsored by leading business and financial advisers Grant Thornton, with 50 exclusive lots going under the hammer over the past five weeks sparking fierce bidding among readers.