Thinking of those who served in the Armed Forces and the nation’s covenant with them. Making good on that national commitment.
A recent Christmas present, the biography of Jason Fox entitled ‘Battle Scars’ set me thinking about debt owed to those who served their country. While the headlines of Iraq and Afghanistan play large in the media, we know little of these men and women’s battles after they return home.
The memoir by Jason Fox, an ex-special forces soldier and frontman of Channel 4’s hit show “SAS: Who Dares Wins”, is a powerful insight into not just the guts and glory but also the pain and permanent scars of war.
Indeed that title Battle Scars, says it all as Fox not only gives exciting accounts of the operations that defined his military service but honestly discusses the the psychological impact of modern combat.
Fox’s memoir has been described as both “adrenaline-fuelled” and “an important story” for its exploration of mental health in the armed forces. After a military career spanning 20 years, including 10 years as a Royal Marine Commando and 10 years in the Special Boat Service, Fox was diagnosed with PTSD in 2012. A year later found himself standing on a cliff-edge in Devon contemplating suicide.
Fox called the book “the story of my rise, my fall and my recovery”. “It deals in the truths about men, the military and mental health, and tells the story of my career in the Special Forces, and what happened to me once I’d trained and served as an elite operator only to lose it all.”
While working as a lobbyist at Westminster one of my biggest battles and greatest victories was in helping to secure the passage of the legislation which underpinned the Armed Forces Covenant. The Armed Forces Covenant is a statement of the moral obligation which exists between the nation, the Government and the Armed Forces. It was published in May 2011 and its core principles were enshrined in law, for the first time, in the Armed Forces Act 2011. It applies to all three services.
The Covenant articulates the view that the nation has a moral obligation to members of the Armed Forces Community in return for the sacrifices they make. Specifically, the Covenant outlines two core principles:
- No disadvantage: no current or former member of the armed forces, or their families, should be at a disadvantage compared to other citizens in the provision of public and commercial services.
- Special consideration: special consideration is appropriate in some cases, particularly for those who have been injured or bereaved.
The Armed Forces Act 2011 does not create legally enforceable rights for Service personnel but it does require the Secretary of State for Defence to report to Parliament each year on the progress made with respect to the Covenant. In that regard it is much like the ongoing personal battles of ex-servicemen with a continual struggle away from the headlines to ensure success. The Covenant offers real help and support to many who are still living with the mental and physical scars of war. The annual report to Parliament ensures that a regular check is made against performance. The real need however is to embed the Covenant and its ethos into local life in communities and Councils. This is part of the normalisation which is required after years of conflict, where the armed forces are seen as p[art of the community, a viable career option for young people and a source of pride for all. We may differ on our views of war, its necessity and its conduct, however we should all be able to agree that when there has been a national decision to engage in conflict those we send to fulfil that wish should be looked after in the theatre of conflict and upon their return.
Defending Those Who Defended Us
At LEXXER Solutions we provide support for a number of ex-services charities and personnel at a local level. It is our aim this year to help at least three charities to access the funding attached to the Covenant, and through three projects to I’m prove the lives of veterans. We will also work to ensure that the Covenant is fully and properly implemented in Northern Ireland.
Our first successful project funded by the Armed Forces Covenant funding was back in 2016 where we worked with a number of local community groups to integrate the ex-service community into a wider community festival. We also helped with research and wider heritage programming to commemorate the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme linking groups like the Royal British Legion, and Help for Heroes with a range of local community and cultural groups.
The project was educational, commemorative and a celebration of the contribution of the Armed forces. Our skills in the study and presentation of often contested heritage and history allowed us to work with Mid and East Antrim Council to present a programme of activities over three weeks which respected the sensitivities of the Troubles and allowed still divided communities to come together and celebrate a shared military tradition.
Practical Help through Projects
Each year LEXXER Solutions offers pro bono support ( a fancy American term for free help and support) to a number of chosen charities. We would like to prioritise ex-service charities or those working to help this sector. So come and speak to one of the team today if you have a project idea or a need that has to be met. The first point of contact will be the grants offered by the Armed Forces Covenant.
Under the Armed Forces Covenant Local Grants programme, grants of up to £20,000 are made for local projects that support community integration or local delivery of services.
Community Integration projects should create strong local links between the Armed Forces community, who are current and former members of their armed forces and their families) and civilian communities; and be able to clearly demonstrate how they will have impact in overcoming barriers to better integration; and improving perceptions, attitudes and understanding. For the project to be truly effective in achieving community integration there should be shared development, delivery and benefits for both communities.
Delivery of Local Services projectsshould be local projects which offer financial advice, housing, mental and physical health, employability or social support for serving armed forces personnel, veterans, and their families. Projects must be well connected, both to their beneficiaries and to other relevant organisations, and be able to demonstrate how the services they provide will be well-publicised, accessible and joined up.
You can only apply for a grant online, and you should read the Local Grants Guidance carefully. You can also read the application questions before you access the online form to get an idea of the information you you will need to provide.
Then come and speak to one of the LEXXER Team and we can guide you through the application process and ensure that you make the best case possible for your idea. This is needed to help others understand why there is a need for your project and how it fits with the programme aims.
You can read about past projects that we have awarded funding to so far. Your idea might not be something that we have funded previously. You can also read our terms and conditions of grant for the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Local Grants programme so that you can see what you will have to agree to if you are awarded a grant.
We are here to help and we would like to focus on practical projects which offer real help to ex-service personal especially with mental health issues. Our experience in working with victims of the Troubles have also given us a number of ideas which work, so if you know there is a need but just haven’t got the solution then that’s where we come in.