AFF often asks you about your experiences of army life and it’s your evidence that helps us resolve issues and make changes. So where does the information go? Well in Wales, it goes right to the top of the Welsh Government. Annabel Ingram, AFF’s regional manager for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, meets regularly with the Deputy Minister Hannah Blythyn and her team, whose role it is to support the armed forces in the country. Annabel spoke to Hannah to highlight the key initiatives that help you make the best of a posting to Wales…
What’s your role?
I’m the Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government. I have the privilege and responsibility for ensuring the Welsh Government and the wider public sector does everything possible to support the armed forces community in Wales.
What does the Welsh Government do to support army families?
While defence issues are not devolved, many of the key services that forces families rely on, including housing, health and education, are the responsibility of the Welsh Government. We are working hard to make sure we deliver on the principles of the Armed Forces Covenant.
Here’s a few examples of how we’re doing this:
- If a member of the armed forces or their immediate family is on an NHS waiting list and they are posted to another part of the UK, any waiting time accrued is carried forward with them. All local health boards in Wales are aware of this commitment.
- A 50 per cent council tax discount on a second home for those living in military property.
- Through our school admissions code, there’s provision for service children to be admitted to an infant class mid-term.
- Members of the armed forces community are classed as priority if they are homeless when leaving the forces. This provides an important safety net during transition.
- Veterans have priority status in the Welsh Government homebuy scheme and widows and widowers of personnel who have died in service are also eligible.
- Working Wales is a new service that provides tailored employability support, available to service families.
Why is it important to work with AFF?
AFF is an important voice of army families and is a means through which we can engage with our service communities.
We know that we achieve more by working together in partnership. AFF is a valued member of our Armed Forces Expert Group, which I chair, and brings together the military, charities, statutory agencies and other experts.
We very much value Annabel’s input. She has a wealth of experience and is fully supportive of the work we are doing.
What specific projects are you currently working on?
We’re looking at how we can better identify service children in schools so that appropriate support can be put in place if needed. We’re also working with businesses and companies using our employment toolkit to highlight the skills and experience that serving families have, to improve their chances of finding the right job.
We’re updating our ‘Welcome to Wales’ document to ensure it has up-to-date information on our services. This is just a flavour of the comprehensive support package we have in place and are seeking to develop.
Do you have a message for army families living in or posted to Wales?
The work you do to keep our country safe will never be taken for granted. That’s why I am determined to do all we can to support you in your work, to help take care of service families, and to support our veterans after they leave military service.
For more information, visit gov.wales and search ‘armed forces support’.