The Ministry of Defence has bestowed its highest award on East Lothian Council for its work to support the Armed Forces community within its workforce and across the county.

Service life brings unique skills and challenges and returning to 'civilian' life provides both opportunities and different challenges.

The local authority has been granted an Employer Recognition Scheme Gold Award, the MOD’s highest award for organisations that employ and support Reservists, service leavers, Veterans and their families.

Armed Forces Covenant

The council is a signatory of an Armed Forces Covenant, which brings together key partners from the council alongside health, education, service and veterans’ organisations to create policy and practices that will support armed forces personnel, both serving and retired, and their families. It received the Silver award in October 2019 and has been working closely with Armed Forces organisations and voluntary sector partners to build on its success.

East Lothian Provost and East Lothian Council’s Armed Forces Champion Councillor John McMillan said: “Receiving this recognition from the Ministry of Defence is undoubtedly a huge achievement and one which we and our partners can be rightly proud of. However, for me, the most important achievement is the positive impact that the work we have carried out will have on members of our Armed Forces Community living and working in East Lothian.

“Service life brings unique skills and challenges and returning to 'civilian' life provides both opportunities and different challenges. I thoroughly enjoy meeting former service men and women and sharing the recognition, support and celebration of their acquired skills and experiences that they - our veterans and service community bring to our county. This award shows our joint commitment as an employer and service provider to support and utilise their collective, invaluable skills.”

Since receiving its Silver Award in 2019 the council has:

  • Included options in recruitment process to allow members of the Armed Forces Community to identify themselves as such, meaning their service experience can be recognised and giving them access to specialist support, if needed
  • Established an Armed Forces Employee Network which brings together veterans and serving military personnel from its workforce. The group, which is employee-led, will give those with service experience an opportunity to meet with peers, offer mutual support and contribute to council policies and activities in this area 
  • Clarified its Reservists’ policy to ensure that all Reservists can receive paid leave to attend their mandatory annual training camp
  • Worked to improve access to education, volunteering and employment support for service leavers looking to relocate to East Lothian
  • Built and allocated six two-bedroom council properties in Cockenzie specifically for disabled veterans
  • Increased awareness amongst schools about supports, including financial supports, for armed forces community pupils
  • Continued training for frontline staff in key council areas, such as housing, education and healthcare, on supporting veterans and the wider networks that exist
  • Continued its work with Armed Forces organisations, health and voluntary sector partners through its Armed Forces Covenant Group to provide opportunities and support for community members in East Lothian.

Armed Forces Employee Network

Kath Evason, East Lothian Council’s Digital and Systems Team Leader, served as an RAF Regular for seven years, and as a Reservist veteran for five years, combining her Reservist responsibilities with her council role. She attended the first meeting of the council’s Armed Forces Employee Network. Kath said: “The establishment of the Armed Forces Employee Network is a great idea. Leaving military life is a huge adjustment for most veterans and for me, as both a RAF Regular and Reservist veteran, one of the biggest challenges was the loss of community and the shared sense of purpose.

“The Employee Network enables me to meet up with like-minded colleagues across the council, sharing support, tips and advice. The opportunity to chat with people who share your experiences is truly rewarding.”

Find out more about our support for the Armed Forces Community.

Published: Monday, 4th September 2023