A GROUP of five councils in North Yorkshire have been awarded £196,000 over the next two years to strengthen and improve their support to current and former members of the Armed Forces and their families.

The money, from the Ministry of Defence's Armed Forces Covenant Fund, is designed to raise awareness of problems faced by the military community.

City of York Council is leading the partnership along with North Yorkshire County Council, Richmondshire District Council, Hambleton District Council and Scarborough Borough Council.

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Car Les, leader of North Yorkshire County Council, said: "We are delighted to welcome this grant, which will enable us, and other councils, to improve how we work with military and service families.

"Military personnel and their families contribute greatly to North Yorkshire's communities and its economy and it's important that we build on the work we're already doing under the Armed Forces Covenant."

Working with York St John University, a series of community awareness training sessions will take place across the councils and their partners over coming months, to include front line staff, practitioners, senior management and councillors.

The initiative also seeks to improve council strategy, policy and service delivery and it is hoped that through a greater understanding of problems and issues faced by the military community, councils can be more efficient by intervening earlier to delivering better social outcomes.

The project also involves highlighting information on areas of both existing good practice and inequality which can be shared on a web portal.

NHS England, Clinical Commissioning Groups and public health teams will lead a first county-wide armed forces Strategic Health Needs Assessment to identify unmet needs and tackle gaps in local provision.

Yvonne Peacock, leader of Richmondshire District Council, added: “Richmondshire has a huge garrison community in Catterick and we have a long-standing relationship with the armed forces community. We hope this work will strengthen those community links and increase awareness of issues affecting them.”

For information about the Armed Forces Covenant, visit www.gov.uk/government/policies/armed-forces-covenant