Pledge to support ex-service personnel by ‘going for gold’

Noel Atkins
Noel Atkins

As winter draws in, Worthing councillors have pledged their support to armed forces veterans struggling with housing and mental health problems.

Salvington councillor Noel Atkins, who was decorated by the Queen for his 20 years’ service in the Royal Navy Reserves, received full support from his fellow councillors in his praise of the work carried out to earn the Military Covenant silver award.

At a meeting of full council, they all agreed work had to continue to not only earn the gold award, but to give veterans all the support they needed in civilian life.

Mr Atkins, who achieved the rank of Lieutenant Commander, described the covenant as ‘a promise by the nation, ensuring that those who serve or have served in the armed forces, and their families, are treated fairly’.

He shared his concerns about the mental health burdens shouldered by many of the men and women.

As a founder of the Worthing Veterans’ Association, Mr Atkins said he was ‘deeply conscious’ of the impact of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and that the association was looking at ways to raise ‘significant funds for better treatment of PTSD in veterans’.

The council has done its bit in helping the association, giving it free use of the town hall’s Gordon Room for a year.

Following the example of Littlehampton, Mr Atkins said that to achieve the gold award, Worthing needed to set up a series of drop-in centres and breakfast clubs.

Applauding the work carried out to achieve the silver award, councillor Bob Smytherman said it was important ‘not to rest on our laurels and continue to support our veterans’.

He added: “[It’s about] aiming for gold and making a real difference and supporting people who have served our country and have terrible, terrible mental health conditions as a result of things that none of us would ever want to witness.”

Councillor Hazel Thorpe said: “It’s incredibly important that we look after everybody in our community and I think we recognise that our veterans have gone through extreme circumstances for our good.

“It’s important, therefore, that we look after them when they come home.”

Stressing the importance of gaining the gold award, she added: “It would mean a lot to the council but it would mean a lot more to the people concerned.”