Outreach workers Spencer Wiggins and Steve Winter.

Armed forces personnel, both serving and retired, can now access extra support through their social landlords, thanks to an outreach project in County Durham.

The Armed Forces Outreach Service (AFOS) is a local authority partnership which Durham County Council has been a part of since 2017. It was created to support servicemen and women, reservists, veterans and their families with issues such as housing, benefits, employment, finances and health and well-being.

Thanks to initial funding from the Armed Forces Community Covenant the council has now committed to continue to host two outreach workers to be based between the authority’s housing solutions team and the partners of Durham Key Options, which includes housing providers such as believe housing, Karbon Homes, Livin and North Star, until April 2020.

The outreach workers, who are ex-service personnel, work closely with clients to help them get access to the services they need. They carry out various duties, including conducting assessments and arranging meetings, all with the aim of helping individuals and families find support for many issues, such as financial concerns, health problems, and housing.

RAF veteran, Jeffery Davidson, served in the forces for 23 years. When his partner passed away a few years ago he was referred into the outreach service. The 61-year-old, from Brandon, said: “I have been in a very dark place since the death of my fiancé four years ago. However, with the help of AFOS giving me something to focus on and a belief in life, I now feel there is a life worth living, if just for my kids.”

Fifty-two-year-old Keith Hopkins, from Easington Village, spent 10 years serving in the Royal Artillery. He was feeling uneasy in a privately rented home due to some incidents of anti-social behaviour in the area.

Keith said: “I was referred to the Armed Forces Outreach Service by a housing provider. Steve of the Armed Forces Outreach Service and Janice of Believe Housing quickly found me a suitable property and I had moved in a fortnight later.

“I am now settled in a nice property in Easington Village and would like to thank all staff involved for their help.”

Cllr Kevin Shaw, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for strategic housing and assets, said: “No member of the armed forces community should ever face disadvantage and we have a good understanding of some of the barriers that the armed forces personnel and their families could face when trying to secure a home.

“We would like to encourage people to get in contact with our outreach service to find out more about what support is on offer.”

In the last 12 months, the service has helped over 100 former service personnel and their families in County Durham.

Referrals can be made either through a tenant’s social landlord (if with Karbon Homes, Believe Housing, Livin or North Star) and via Durham County Council’s housing advice line on 03000 268 000 or by emailing armedforcesoutreach

[email protected]

For more information visit https://www.durham.gov.uk/armedforces