St Albans signs up to armed forces covenant

A HISTORIC pledge to establish a county-wide community covenant with the armed forces, to support past and present members of the services and their families, has been signed by St Albans council.

The new initiative saw a wide range of organisations meet earlier this month in Hertford to sign the pledge to develop the Hertfordshire Community Covenant.

Co-signatories included the Lord Lieutenant of Hertfordshire, senior representatives of the armed forces, the Royal British Legion, Hertfordshire county council, all of Herts’ district and borough councils, NHS Hertfordshire, the Hertfordshire Enterprise Partnership, Job Centre Plus and the voluntary and charitable sector.

Ex-service personnel returning to St Albans from the forces after several years away are disadvantaged when applying for social housing upon their return because they struggle to prove a local connection.

St Albans district councillor for London Colney, Jacob Quagliozzi, had previously told the Herts Advertiser that he was shocked at a resident’s inability to qualify for social housing because of time spent overseas.

As there is a shortfall in social housing, conditions are placed to determine who has priority to obtain the accommodation.

One of these criteria is proof of a connection to St Albans – for example how long people have lived in the district.

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Cllr Quagliozzi said in September that it was “truly shocking” that a local ex-serviceman who had lived in Ministry of Defence properties and moved around for all of his 22 years in the forces had suffered when trying to settle permanently in the district.

St Albans district council was represented at the pledge signing by its portfolio holder for housing, Cllr Brian Ellis.

He said it was important past and current members of the armed forces were not disadvantaged when seeking employment or needing to retrain after leaving the service.

The covenant in Hertfordshire, to be developed by spring next year, will help promote access to a wide range of services from health and housing to training and transport. It will focus on areas including help to support the mental and physical health needs of service leavers.

It is also proposed to establish a Hertfordshire Heroes website, a guide to services, support and advice geared towards Herts’ former and current military personnel and their families in the county.