When paratrooper Ben Parkinson returned home to Doncaster after suffering massive injuries in Afghanistan, it inspired his local council to take a long, hard look at the way it treated the military.
The result was a root and branch policy overhaul that led Doncaster Council to become one of the leading authorities in the country for the way it treats reservists, cadet force adult volunteers and veterans.
Its commitment to guaranteeing that the military community gets a fair deal led to it becoming one of the first organisations in the country to be recognised with a Gold Award under the Ministry of Defence’s Employer Recognition Scheme.
Special circumstances of those who serve
Lance Bombardier Parkinson, aged 33, lost both legs and suffered brain damage when his Land Rover hit an anti-tank mine in Helmand Province in 2006.
“Ben’s return kick-started the whole community to remember their own links with the military and reignited our collective belief that we should do our utmost to ensure our military and ex-military are able to live the best lives they can,” said Stronger Communities Manager Lisa Swainston (pictured).
“For us, it wasn’t just about expressing our thanks to Ben and his fellow military through pomp and ceremony. Instead, we wanted to transform our communities to make them truly inclusive and to take specific account of the needs and challenges of the military.
“It’s not about giving them preferential treatment. It’s about recognising the special circumstances that those in the armed forces and veterans have and ensuring they are properly acknowledged in our services and policies.”
New approach to employment
The authority has transformed its approach both as an employer and as a service provider. In its role as a community leader, it also supports other organisations across the town to develop the way they respond to the needs of service families and veterans.
As an employer, the council has brought about a cultural shift by training staff in military culture. All managers do an e-learning package and a veteran provides a one-day workshop to staff to educate about the distinctive aspects of military life and culture. So far around 1,000 of the authority’s 5,000-strong workforce has undergone training.
The authority also offers their reservist and cadet force adult volunteers up to ten days additional annual leave to enable them to carry out their duties and training requirements without reducing their personal entitlement. It also operates a scheme under which anyone who has served in the military is guaranteed an interview if they apply for a post they are qualified to do.
“Staff are under no obligation to let us know if they have any military connections or commitments,” said Lisa.