F&HDC Armed Forces Champion Cllr Jenny Hollingsbee is pictured (right) at the conference with Capt (Retd) Ram Pun, of Folkestone Nepalese Community Centre, and The Lord-Lieutenant of Kent, The Lady Colgrain

The needs of the armed forces community were top of the agenda at an event in Folkestone on Tuesday.

With its strong – and long – tradition of supporting the community, Folkestone & Hythe district hosted the eighth annual Kent & Medway Civilian-Military Armed Forces Covenant Conference at the Leas Cliff Hall. 

It was attended by more than 150 people, including serving and former personnel from all the services, public sector and other organisations, including service charities. 

F&HDC’s Armed Forces Champion Cllr Jenny Hollingsbee joined other champions from across Kent and Medway (including Kent champion Cllr Oliver Richardson), as well as Covenant Lead Officers. The Lord-Lieutenant of Kent, The Lady Colgrain was also in attendance, along with Kent County Council chair Cllr Lesley Game and senior officers from local army units. 

The theme of the day, organised by the Kent & Medway Civilian Partnership Board, was promoting a greater understanding and awareness of the needs of the armed forces community. Service children, housing, homelessness, employment and service charities were all discussed. There was also an update on the new Armed Forces Act and what it means in practice. 

Delegates heard about the Gurkha veterans’ hub at the new Folkestone Nepalese Community Centre, the Ashford veterans’ breakfast club and veteran-friendly surgeries and hospitals. 

Forty years on from the Falklands War, ex-Royal Marine Steve Schooling told of his life, aged just 17, on board SS Canberra. The relationship between church and military was explored by service chaplain The Rev Prebendary Mark Haldon-Jones, of St Peter’s Church, Folkestone. 

Cllr Hollingsbee said: “After a COVID-enforced break of two years, it was a pleasure and a privilege to host the conference and to welcome so many people in person! 

“We were all there with one aim: to support the armed forces community. I believe the breadth of the topics covered shows that this support continues to go from strength to strength.”

By Ed

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