Greater Manchester Housing Providers (GMHP) gathered today at the Imperial War Museum North to discuss how to support former armed services personnel and their families.

The inaugural GMHP Armed Forces Covenant event (#GMArmedForces) was hosted by Yvonne Castle, CEO of Johnnie Johnson Housing, and was attended by representatives from housing providers and local authorities from across Greater Manchester (GM).

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Manchester, gave the keynote speech and spoke about the role of Greater Manchester housing providers who are on the ‘front line of our mission to enhance the lives of the residents of Greater Manchester’. He said he felt a sense of pride that this group is the first of its kind in the country to come together to support the servicemen, women, and families who have ‘given up so much so that we can live the lives that we do’. His statement that ‘how we treat those who have served our country defines us as a society’ resonated strongly with those in the room.

Andy went on to speak passionately about his personal mission to end rough sleeping in Greater Manchester. After speaking personally to people on the street, he says too many are veterans and as a society we are failing them which is shameful.

GMHP has committed to set a new standard for the support that is provided to members of the Armed Forces Family. This is not about advantaging those who have served, it is about making sure that they:

  • are treated fairly
  • should not face disadvantage compared to other citizens in the provision of services
  • are recognised for their military service and the sacrifice inherent in it.

Warren Smith, Lord Lieutenant of Greater Manchester spoke about the importance of partnership and the Third Sector, and further presentations were made, including by representatives of Walking with the Wounded, Nacro, and housing association Mosscare St Vincents. Chris Thomas, GM Armed Forces Covenant Programme Manager, demonstrated a new eLearning package that highlights some of the issues that the military community faces, especially when they are leaving the Service.

Delegates heard an inspirational account by Leon Allen of ‘Bringing a Veteran’s Life to Life’ where he described feeling like the loneliest person in the world when he left the armed forces, but that with support, patience, and effort he rediscovered life.

Also present were 20 ‘supplier partners’ such as BLESMA, Care after Combat, SSAFA, Broughton House, ABF the Soldiers’ Charity and RFEA who were there to speak to housing professionals and Covenant leads about the services they offer to veterans and their families. This will enable the housing providers and local authorities to signpost people who would benefit from the suppliers’ services as appropriate.

Host of the event Yvonne Castle said, “Today has been invaluable for providing insight into what the housing provider’s role is in supporting the Armed Forces Community. Hearing first-hand about people’s experiences helps us to learn and understand.”

During the event, attendees were asked to contribute to a ‘Pledge Wall’ to outline how their organisation might better support the Armed Forces Community in future. The pledges made included improving staff recruitment practices, introducing an annual veteran’s day, creating local veteran’s groups, and finding robust methods to support veterans to find suitable accommodation.

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