News story: Army regiment supports BBC's DIY SOS team to transform homes for veterans

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  1. BBC’s DIY SOS is helping renovate an entire road in Manchester into 62 specially adapted and bespoke homes for ex-service personnel. On hand to help out the BBC DIY SOS team were 75 Engineer Regiment, who were onsite for two weeks, and Princes William and Harry who came to show their support. The renovation project is in partnership with Haig Housing, a provider of housing for ex-service personnel, and charity Walking with the Wounded.

    Member of the Corp of Royal Engineers, both Regular and Reserve, are “triple traded”. They are trained firstly as soldiers, secondly as artisan tradesmen like bricklayers or electricians, and finally as combat engineers providing military engineering, such as building bridges and route clearance. The capability of the 11 individuals from 75 Engineer Regiment helping out with this project meant they were a welcome contribution to the DIY SOS team.

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    Reservist WO2 Jason Shawcross RE was one of the 11 individuals from 75 Engineer Regiment. As a site foreman in his civilian life, he combined his military and civilian roles to huge success. Due to his civilian qualifications, WO2 Shawcross was able to take charge of the large equipment needed for this project - the tipper truck and the fork lift - and offer official training to two of the DIY SOS team so that they can take charge of large equipment on future projects.

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    Veterans, with help from charity Walking With The Wounded, have also been re-trained in construction trades and will also be part of the building team.

    In recent years the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), who are a strong supporter of the Armed Forces Covenant, has introduced a number of measures to ensure that members of the Armed Forces Community do not face disadvantage in housing. They have improved access to social housing, ensured that seriously injured personnel and veterans with urgent housing needs are always given high priority and introduced measures to provide support for specialist accommodation for veterans. DCLG also work with councils to prevent homelessness and introduced initiatives such as Streetlink and No Second Night Out which ensure that when veterans end up sleeping rough they are offered care and support from local services.

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  2. The British Army, Royal Air Force and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) have all made the Top Apprenticeship Careers list 2015 and are listed amongst the top 10 in the ‘Government and Public sector’ category.

    The list raises awareness of the benefits of apprenticeships and celebrates the leading companies in the most popular industry sectors that are investing in young people. The list has been compiled as part of the 2015 Apprenticeship Careers show by Square Peg Media and independent judges include Angela Eagle MP and Sharon Warpole, CEO of Not Going to Uni.

    The Army has the largest apprenticeship programme in the country with about 95 per cent of new soldiers taking part and over 8,000 completing their apprenticeship training each year.

    Corporal Charlotte Cox, a soldier and dog trainer, is training for a Level 3 NVQ in Work Based Animal Care. Before joining the Army she attained a number of GCSEs, but was keen to increase her skills and qualifications.


    I’ve become a lot more confident, outgoing and disciplined since working on my Army apprenticeship. My NVQ in Work Based Animal Care is highly valued in the Army and is also recognised by civilian companies, so it’s reassuring to know that the training I’m receiving is for life, not just the Army. I always wanted to work with animals in the military so this apprenticeship is perfect for me.
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    Bethan Warner, Dstl engineering apprentice

    Dstl recruits around 10 to 15 new apprentices each year. The Dstl apprenticeship schemes mix formal classroom based study alongside practical hands-on training in workshop, laboratory and office facilities.

    Bethan Warner, a Dstl engineering apprentice, dispels the myth that women don’t do engineering.


    Getting an apprenticeship was one of the best things I have ever achieved. The combination of practical hands-on work and classroom based theory is perfect for me. I knew I didn’t want to go to university and I knew I wanted to get an apprenticeship as other members of my family started their successful careers as apprentices.

    I feel very proud to have started my career as an apprentice, and I like the fact that I’m making a living for myself, earning a good salary, gaining a great work ethic, meeting fantastic new people and learning skills every day.

    An apprenticeship in the RAF also offers the chance to gain a UK recognised trade qualification as part of a challenging and unique career. SAC (T) Shayne Hadland is a Trade Group 1 Mechanical Aircraft Technician who completed his Advanced Apprenticeship in Aeronautical Engineering. He is currently working in the Transmission Bay at RAF Benson. His role is to repair, maintain, complete fault diagnosis and undertake modification of equipment on Puma helicopter transmission components.

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    SAC (T) Shayne Hadland, Trade Group 1 Mechanical Aircraft Technician

    There are nearly 500 different careers employed by the Armed Forces, including professions like doctors or practical jobs like chefs. The Armed Forces is the UK’s biggest provider of apprenticeships, which are open to everyone.

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  3. A credit union has been launched to support Armed Forces personnel access safe and affordable finance, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon announced today.

    Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said:


    The Government’s commitment to the Covenant remains unshakeable.

    Today we go even further by launching a credit union for our Armed Forces personnel.

    By paying a regular amount from their salary directly into the credit union, they will be able to avoid the struggle for credit approval and the siren call of the payday lenders.

    The launch of credit union services for serving Armed Forces personnel will offer them an easy alternative to banks, building societies and payday lenders. It will increase the choice available for savings and loan facilities.

    In the past, some personnel have struggled to get credit approved, partly due to moving regularly and not being able to build up a good credit rating. Some troops have also been targeted by payday loan companies.

    Armed Forces personnel will now be able to save with, and pay off loans from, the credit union through ‘payroll deduction’. The payment will come directly from an individual’s salary or pension at source.

    Minister for Defence Personnel and Veterans, Mark Lancaster, said:


    I’m delighted that credit union services will today be available to Armed Forces personnel. It is crucial that those service people who work so hard to keep Britain safe, both at home and abroad, can access easy and affordable ways to save and borrow.

    This helps to tackle an issue that has caused disadvantage and disappointment to some service members.

    HM Treasury announced in March that the Government would provide £500K from non-MOD LIBOR funds to help Armed Forces personnel access credit union services. This is being spent on developing the system to allow payroll deductions for credit union payments by service personnel and those in receipt of a pension, and on the staffing required by DBS sub-contractors to handle those processes.

    Economic Secretary to the Treasury Harriett Baldwin said:


    I am delighted that armed forces personnel will now be able to save with credit unions directly from their salary or pension.

    Military personnel have long faced difficulties accessing credit due to the mobile lifestyles required by their jobs, and it is right that we use bank fines collected from those who’ve demonstrated the worst of values to support these military personnel who have served their country and shown the best of British values.

    The three credit unions, PlaneSaver Credit Union, Police Credit Union and London Mutual Credit Union, will work collaboratively to offer the best service for personnel.

    Providing access to credit unions complements existing financial support for the military. The MoneyForce programme, launched in March 2013, gives financial education and awareness to service personnel, combined with accessible online support for the entire Armed Forces community via MoneyForce.com.

    Today’s launch of the credit union builds on the MODs work under its commitment to the Armed Forces Covenant. Credit unions are owned by their members. This means they can offer competitive rates of interest on savings and loan products, as there are no third-party shareholders to whom profits must be distributed. Credit unions are also able to offer safe and sustainable loans to their members, and deposits are protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.

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  4. Representatives of London VAPC’s Advocacy and Assistance groups will be among the 2,000 volunteers helping with Royal British Legion’s’ London Poppy Day on Thursday, 29th October, 2015

    They’ll join those representing the Royal Navy, British Army, and Royal Air Force plus ex-service and civilian supporters to cover 49 tube stations, mainline stations and various attractions in central London and Canary Wharf. There will also be 15 military bands and many celebrities from stage and screen taking part.

    Collecting will begin at 7am and finish at the end of the rush hour. In 2014, £1.25 million was collected.

    The event is supported by London Transport, Lloyds and the train companies while Barclaycard enable the use of credit and debit cards at the collection points.

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  5. The state of the art 80,000 square metre building will store food, clothing, general and medical supplies and bring the military’s logistics, commodities and support services up to the standard of industry best practice.

    It will also deliver more efficient and effective processes across the supply chain through better storage and streamlined distribution, enhancing the level of support provided to UK Armed Forces.

    The Defence Fulfilment Centre (DFC), to be run by Team Leidos, will take around one year to build and house two warehouses covering an area the same size as ten football pitches.

    Defence Minister Philip Dunne said:


    I am very pleased to be able to mark the start of construction on the Defence Fulfilment Centre in Donnington which will help deliver the best support to our Armed Forces while ensuring value for money for the UK taxpayer, generating financial savings of around £500 million over the next 13 years.

    The Government is making a significant investment of £83 million in this state-of-the art, modern logistics centre benefiting both our Armed Forces and the local economy. This forms part of our 10 year, £160 billion Equipment Plan, as well as our commitment to meeting NATO’s defence investment pledge.
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    MOD Chief of Materiel, (Land), Lieutenant General Sir Chris Deverell, said:


    The start of construction on the fulfilment centre highlights how we are transforming the way we support the changing military requirements of our Armed Forces and improving levels of quality and service.

    The modernisation of the way we store and distribute our military equipment will develop a supply chain that will be responsive to the needs of the military, whilst at the same time saving money for the MOD.

    Managing Director of Leidos Europe, Barbara Doornink, said:


    Working together, and in partnership with the MOD, the companies that make up Team Leidos will deliver a better service for our Armed Forces and better value for the UK taxpayer.

    We are already identifying areas for investment and improvement, and the DFC represents the first major step change in what can be delivered with modern infrastructure and IT.

    Team Leidos consists of Leidos, a US company, supported by its key subcontractors Kuehne+Nagel and TVS Supply Chain Solutions.

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    • Plans to create a joint industry and government group to do more to tackle proliferation of extremist content online
    • The government’s new one-nation Counter-Extremism Strategy to confront and defeat all forms of extremism to be published tomorrow (19 October)

    The government will invest £5 million this year to build a national network of grassroots organisations to challenge all forms of extremist ideology, the Prime Minister announced today on the eve of the publication of the government’s new Counter-Extremism Strategy.

    At the heart of the Strategy is a new partnership approach to strengthen community resilience and promote a coalition to speak out, challenge and ultimately defeat extremism. The new funding, initially for this financial year, will be dedicated to providing direct and in-kind practical support to groups to expand the reach and scale of their work to confront extremism, and develop credible alternative narratives to the dangerous views propagated by extremists. This could include:

    • social media training
    • technical assistance to enable a small charity to set up a website
    • targeting funding for specific projects

    Prime Minister David Cameron said:


    I said last week that there is one more big social reform in our mission to rebuild Britain as an even greater country. We need to systematically confront and challenge extremism and the ideologies that underpin it, exposing the lies and the destructive consequences it leaves in its wake. We have to stop it at the start – stop this seed of hatred even being planted in people’s minds and cut off the oxygen it needs to grow.

    Tomorrow I will be launching the Counter-Extremism Strategy. It sets out our new approach to tackle this poison: to vigorously counter the ideology that underpins it; to take on the violent and non-violent parts of the creed; actively supporting the mainstream voices to rise above those of the extremists; and tackle the segregation and feelings of alienation that can help provide fertile ground for extremist messages to take root.

    At the core is building a national coalition of all those individuals and groups who are united in their determination to defeat extremism and build a more cohesive society. We will do everything we can to support them – through my new Community Engagement Forum and with practical support and funding to tackle these deep-rooted issues. The scale of the task is immense and that is why we need everyone to play their part.

    The new Strategy also goes further in developing the partnership between industry, police and government to remove terrorist and extremist material online, building on the successful joint industry, government and police work to take down child abuse images online.

    The past 18 months has seen a big change in the way that extremists use the internet to target their radical ideology directly at young minds. According to recent research from the Quilliam Foundation, ISIL produces 38 unique pieces of high-quality propaganda every day which is then disseminated widely by a network of thousands of ISIL supporters and sympathisers all over the world. And extremists are increasingly using the internet to inspire radicalisers to groom new recruits through online peer-to-peer relationships.


    You can report illegal terrorist information, pictures or videos if you see this online. Report dangerous online material.


    Cooperation with industry and police to remove harmful terrorist and extremist content has significantly improved in recent years – the Met’s Counter-Terrorism Internet Referral Unit has now removed over 110,000 pieces of extremist propaganda since 2010 and over 38,000 pieces so far this year, with referrals from the public up 400% between end of 2013 to 2014 and 2014 to 2015.

    Notes to editors


    There is no single model of radicalisation. Extremist ideologies can prove very attractive. They appear to offer a sense of belonging and purpose, reinvention and focus on a single set of beliefs governing how people live their lives and the actions they take. Feeding off the vulnerability of their audiences, extremists use their ideologies to radicalise and recruit online and offline.

    Examples of organisations already working to counter extremist ideology include:


    • Active Change Foundation (ACF) is a successful youth centre in East London. They run the Young Leaders Programme for aspiring young leaders of all backgrounds. The programme trains, mentors and supports the young leaders to have the critical thinking skills and confidence to achieve their ambitions in life and offers them a platform to use their skills in their local communities


    • Inspire is a women’s counter-extremism organisation campaigning for human rights and gender equality, led by Sara Khan and Kalsoom Bashir. They run facilitated workshops for Muslim women across the country, supported by Prevent Local Coordinators, and are both recognised media commentators on the issue of young women travelling to Syria. The group launched their Making A Stand campaign in October 2014, which called on Muslim women to take the lead in their communities by vocally rejecting extremist narratives. Sara Khan attended the Prime Minister’s Community Engagement Forum this week.

    For more information about the work of the Counter-terrorism Online Referral Unit, please contact the Met Press Office. The government also runs a referral scheme for the public to report dangerous content on gov.uk.

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  6. The Arboretum is to undergo a year-long programme of improvements and maintenance – including new pathways and lights – thanks to a £3 million LIBOR fines grant and further support from the Royal British Legion.

    The Armed Forces Memorial commemorates all UK Servicemen and women who have been killed on duty or as a result of terrorism since the end of the Second World War. The striking and iconic monument will benefit from a new stone-paved surface, drainage improvements, upgraded pathways and lighting as well as essential maintenance to stonework.

    Containing the names of over 16,000 men and women, the monument has attracted over 2 million visitors since it was dedicated in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen in October 2007.

    The Arboretum has explored ways to minimise disruption to visitors during the period of works, however to ensure the safety of visitors, and in order to complete the work as quickly as possible, the programme of improvements will require the monument to be closed from 12 November 2015 for up to 12 months. All works will be complete by Armistice Day 2016.

    During this time, the Arboretum has created a new area featuring information about the Armed Forces Memorial and photography of every name on its walls. It has also created a new focal point for the laying of wreaths and other tributes.

    Sarah Montgomery, managing director of the National Memorial Arboretum, which is part of The Royal British Legion, said:


    The LIBOR fines grant and support from The Royal British Legion will enable us to improve the monument and address issues with drainage and damp, ensuring it continues to provide appropriate recognition and thanks for those who have given their lives in the service of the country.

    We recognise the disruption these works will cause and having to close the monument for any period of time is not a decision we wanted to take. There are however over 300 other memorials within the 150 acres of wooded parkland, with the majority of recent conflicts represented in some way. We hope that our visitors will take the opportunity to explore other parts of the Arboretum.

    We are also creating an area with panels featuring images of the names on the monument, and a focal point for the laying of tributes, in order that families can continue to pay their respects.

    The Armistice Day service in 2015 will take place as usual at the Armed Forces Memorial. The dedication of new names on the memorial, of those killed in 2015, and a rededication of the upgraded memorial, will take place in early November 2016, once the works are fully complete.

    More information is available on the Arboretum’s website.

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  7. In August 2015, the MOD agreed that the UDR & R IRISH (HS) Aftercare Service should continue to exist and be funded since circumstances leading to its inception have not markedly changed, need is still evident and demand is being effectively met.

    However, in line with other defence restructuring, it has been decided that eventually it should become owned by the MOD’s main veterans’ support organisation, known as Veterans UK, which includes the Veterans’ Welfare Service (VWS).

    A transition programme is being agreed to ensure that the aftercare service’s capability is retained once subsumed into Veterans UK, probably not before 2020.

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  8. The sixth Oxfordshire Veterans Forum was held on 10 July 2015 at Edward Brooks Barracks in Abingdon, an Army Reserve Centre which is the home of The Rifles in Oxfordshire. The county has over 9,000 service personnel, 5,000 dependants, 1,000 reservists and an estimated 50,000 veterans.

    The forum was attended by 75 people from a wide variety of organisations involved in meeting veterans needs, including the Lord Lieutenant and 3 local MPs.

    Oxfordshire was the first county to sign the armed forces covenant. The aim was to encourage charities, local authorities, businesses, communities and individuals to work together with the military to offer support to service personnel and their families, as well as reservists and veterans.

    The veterans forum was established by SEVA&PC members. with the aim of supporting the development of the Oxfordshire Armed Forces Community Covenant by facilitating greater liaison between the service charities, the Lieutenancy, 11 Brigade, the local army garrisons and RAF bases, the Veterans Welfare Service, Oxfordshire County Council, the District Councils, the NHS, DWP and the SEVA&PC, in the transition of service personnel to civilian life and in identifying and addressing veterans’ welfare and pension issues.

    Amongst many issues raised and actions from the sixth veterans forum were the following:

    • examine the provision of a regular Oxfordshire newsletter on transition/veterans matters
    • map providers: where they fit? where to get information?
    • examine feasibility of establishing a central point of contact in the county
    • there are too many providers for leavers’ needs; examine the provision of some kind of triage system in the county to help leavers’ in areas such as housing and divorce
    • stimulate a unified housing policy across the local authorities in the county
    • requirement for greater veteran participation and representation in the county’s military partnership/covenant processes
    • reinforce understanding amongst local businesses of the commitment involved in the corporate covenant?
    • a need to Improve access to NHS dentists
    • address NHS waiting list times and difficulties on posting for existing previous area appointments
    • tackle Inability of service leavers to register with GPs in a new area before discharge/retirement
    • need for receiving NHS Trust to accept existing paperwork/forms from losing trust
    • requirement to ensure priority medical treatment of veterans
    • adjust GP registration form to identify reservists
    • Identify GP practices which are not registering veterans and inform Oxfordshire Healthwatch

    It is expected that the next forum will be held in July 2016. Anyone interested in attending should email Robin Draper on [email protected].

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  9. Exercise Dragon has brought together armed forces from several NATO allies to practice and test multinational, joint combined arms manoeuvres at the Divisional level, and the UK’s contribution predominately involves the Army.

    The UK has committed around 800 troops to the exercise, and more than 130 vehicles, including Challenger 2 main battle tanks and Warrior infantry armoured fighting vehicles.

    Poland, Germany, the US and Canada make up the other nations taking part in the five-week, two-part exercise, which began in September and runs until the end of October.

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    Exercise Dragon. Crown Copyright.

    The first phase, a UK-only exercise, was carried out at the Drawsko Pomorski Training Area. The second phase, which begins today (19 October) at the Orzysz Training area, will involve all five nations.

    The exercise involves up to 10,000 troops from the five participating nations, and is designed to exercise Polish Divisional and Brigade HQs while concurrently allowing integrated training at the Company and Battlegroup level by UK, Polish, German and American force elements.

    Exercise Dragon is part of the UK contribution to NATO’s Assurance Measures and, as well as delivering significant training value, is designed to provide assurance to eastern Allies.

    Poland is a key NATO ally and we value our strong bilateral relationship with them. The UK remains determined to build on this relationship further as we move forward.

    UK participation in Exercise Dragon provides an opportunity to test our forces to their readiness as the UK prepares to lead NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force in 2017.

    Exercise Dragon underlines NATO’s purpose of collective defence and demonstrates the UK’s commitment to defend Allies.

    Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said:


    In a darker and more dangerous world, it is vital that we work with our NATO allies so we can respond to any threat. That’s why the UK is playing a key role in Exercise Dragon, contributing nearly 1,000 troops, and over 130 vehicles and tanks.

    The exercise will help preparations for NATO’s new rapid reaction taskforce, which the UK will provide troops for every year into the next decade and which we will lead in 2017.

    Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Garner, Commanding Officer of the 1st Battalion Yorkshire Regiment, which is part of the LABG, said:


    This has been a great exercise for 1 YORKS. Getting our vehicles and equipment out to Poland was a third of the exercise, and the exercise out here has been top notch.

    The Polish terrain adds a different dimension to our training which we can’t achieve in the UK. Working so closely with our NATO allies has been great training for the guys. Obviously we have different ways of doing things, but bringing all this together in line with NATO doctrine has been challenging, but highly rewarding.

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  10. Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said:


    I’m pleased to announce that the new courses of C-IED training for Iraqi ground forces have started this weekend, following the Prime Minister’s pledge this summer that the UK would increase the number of personnel assisting the Iraqi government’s counter-ISIL efforts.

    Fifty personnel from 33 Engineer Regiment, Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD), will deliver life-saving C-IED instruction to members of the Iraqi Security Forces in Besmaya and Taji.

    The counter-IED training targets a particular tactic used by ISIL terrorists who are well known for their intensive use of explosives when retreating. So far, UK forces have trained over 2,170 members of the Kurdish Security Forces in C-IED tactics and techniques and this programme will extend that capability to the Iraqi forces. It will ensure they are also better-equipped to counter the evil of ISIL and will allow them to clear territory safely and return it to local people who have been displaced, currently unable to return to their homes.

    Meanwhile, Kurdish forces have recently defeated 60 IEDs and avoided a further 300 in a single village thanks to the 1,000 counter-IED VALLON detectors gifted by the UK in June.

    This year is poignant for those who undertake EOD roles. On 22 October there will be a commemorative service at St Paul’s marking 75 years since the formation of the Army’s Royal Engineer bomb disposal unit.

    Focusing on the role of EOD throughout the Second World War, as well as during the conflicts of Northern Ireland and Afghanistan, the service will see members from across the three services give thanks for the men and women of the Armed Forces who have served and continue to serve in bomb disposal roles across the world today.

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