I was honoured to be appointed as the Armed Forces Champion for the council a little earlier in the year and I've been busy getting to know more about the Forces themselves and the work that goes on in Sunderland to support them.
Quite rightly, Sunderland has a proud tradition of showing our thanks and gratitude to our servicemen and women past and present and I think this is really visible through the Remembrance Day service and parade each year, Armed Forces Day events and through the marches and parades of the regiments who have the Freedom of the City. Sadly our long association with HMS Ocean recently came to end with her decommissioning but I was delighted to be able to announce our new affiliation with HMS Anson on Armed Forces Day.
What is perhaps less well known is the work that goes on behind the scenes the year round and the range of individuals and organisations involved in a partnership effort together with military colleagues to ensure the best outcomes for those currently serving, reservists, veterans and cadets.
There is a genuine and widespread commitment by organisations throughout the city to do their best for our Armed Forces community and the members of the Sunderland Partnership are at various levels of the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme. The scheme encompasses bronze, silver and gold awards for organisations that pledge to support defence and the Armed Forces community. The city council is currently at silver standard and will be going for the gold award in a few months' time.
There is also an incredible voluntary effort in the city coordinated through the Sunderland Armed Forces Network, the Veterans Forum, Veterans in Crisis and a range of others.
Those leaving or who have left the Armed Forces particularly need our support in many cases to make the transition to civilian life with access to housing, health services and employment opportunities so we are talking with the Army Transition Team to see how we can get former servicemen and women into jobs where we currently have a shortage of skills in the city.
As a partnership in Sunderland, we recognise that for all that work that takes place, we need to communicate it more widely and make sure that the Armed Forces community know that we're not only there on the big occasions but all year round in a range of ways. This is how we can really show our appreciation for the city's heroes.
You can find out more about the services and support available as well as events and activities on the Sunderland Armed Forces Network website and details for November's Remembrance events will be available here on the council's website soon.
Cllr Michael Mordey