A COUNCIL is to step up the support offered to servicemen and women and their families.

The borough council is to launch an Armed Forces Community Covenant Scheme, which will see discounts offered to veterans, and more training and employment opportunities.

The council said they wish to reach out to the 11,000 Hyndburn residents thought to be part of the armed forces community. Leader of the council Miles Parkinson said the borough has a high recruitment rate for the armed forces and that services needed to be in place for returning veterans. By creating the scheme the council also hopes to access more special grants which can be used to help veterans, spouses, parents and widowed families.

The scheme will see the council create a dedicated area of their website where veterans and relatives can find different services and help all in one place. Coun Parkinson said: “Those who serve our country do not always come home. We need to make sure that those who do are looked after in the way they need. It is not always just a case of injured limbs, it is the mental scars that many carry.

“Settling back into civilian life is a tall order, but there is so much that can be done if we all work together.” Recently council officers and councillors have been attending NHS awareness sessions on the challenges many veterans face when they return home.

Oswaldtwistle councillor Doug Hayes, whose son Captain Kevin Hayes, served in Afghanistan, is the borough’s new Armed Forces Community Champion and will chair working groups on the issue.

He said: “It won’t be a talking shop, we are adamant about that. It’s very difficult for servicemen and women to come home and fit into a completely different world. There are already groups in the borough who do a lot for the families, they will get our backing and we will get their expertise.”

The covenant, which was approved by full council, will see special policies created to support housing, employment and education for the community. The council is also expected to offer service discounts to veterans and encourage local retailers to sign up to a ‘Rewards for Forces’ scheme.

One of the outcomes will see a local ’Veteran’s Council’ established who will deal specifically with issues affecting the military community.