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Testing centres covered

The security firm SSGC reports it’s mobilised 700 security guards and marshals in a matter of weeks to cover testing centres as a supplier to the outsourced services firms Serco and Sodexo, which are managing centres on behalf of the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

Swindon-based SSGC is supplying staff to 28 testing centres across the country. SSGC managing director David Stubbs, himself a former military police officer, is behind the drive to provide veterans with a second chance to serve their country, having signed the Armed Forces Covenant (AFC), an undertaking to support the welfare and wellbeing of uniformed personnel who have served their country.

Kate Davies, Director of Health and Justice and Armed Forces, said: “It’s fantastic that veterans are stepping up to support the country once again in the fight against COVID-19. We at NHS England and NHS Improvement are hugely grateful to them for providing their expertise and skillset at testing centres across England in this time of need.”

One of those veterans is James Parker, 31, who had a seven-year career as a military policeman before deciding to spend more time with his young family and training as a self-employed enforcement agent last year. With his make-up artist partner having also turned self-employed, the couple found that when the UK went into lockdown in March, work suddenly dried up for them both.

James, from Sheffield, used social media to reach out and has been working at a testing facility for the past three weeks in what he describes as a second opportunity to ‘serve Queen and country’ – and at the same time provide for his family after facing possible financial disaster.

James said: “I had a great career as a military policeman. I went into it with just GCSEs and left with a degree and experience of working abroad, having made great friends and being part of a fantastic community. I was stationed in Germany before moving to Telford but I made the decision to leave the forces in February 2019 when my partner became pregnant with our second child.

“I trained in close protection and took a job as a self-employed enforcement agent. When the pandemic struck my work dried up and as both my partner and myself are self-employed, we found ourselves struggling financially. I applied online for a role providing help at one of the testing stations but hadn’t heard anything back. I reached out to David (Stubbs) on LinkedIn and he offered me an interview. I’ve been working now for nearly a month.

“You sign up to the Armed Forces to protect Queen and country and by helping at these NHS testing centres, we’re now helping Queen and country in another way. A lot of people go through the drive-through centres each day and I think they get real reassurance from seeing a military veteran on guard and helping out.

“We have had people leaving say to us that they were really nervous and scared when they arrived but we helped put their minds as ease, so that’s obviously a really nice part of the work.”

SSGC is also working with the Yorkshire Regiment Association to help recruit for veterans to work at the testing centres. Major Pat Ralph, chairman of the Yorkshire Regiment Association, said: “Our call to arms went out across the three Yorkshire regiments – The Prince of Wales’s Own Regiment of Yorkshire, The Green Howards and the Duke of Wellington’s, veteran NHS fundraiser Col Sir Tom Moore’s former regiment.

“The response was overwhelming. For our veterans, this is an opportunity to give something back to their communities, to get involved with like-minded people and, for many, new qualifications are also in the offing.”

David Childs, 52, from Penistone, spent 24 years in the infantry with the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment before leaving the forces and going into close protection. In CP he spent 11 years working in Iraq and the past three years in Kabul, working with the Australian Embassy. He was home on leave when lockdown came into force and was unable to return to Kabul. He volunteered as an NHS case worker, before being put in touch with SSGC via Major Ralph and the Yorkshire Regiment Association.

David spent three weeks working at a testing centre in the north before making a delayed return to Kabul. He said: “It’s really a wartime effort during peacetime. I normally work out in Kabul helping with the aid service and getting their economy going again.

“From what I have seen during my time at the testing centres, and at home in Penistone, there is a real sense of community and that British bulldog spirit to help others and band together – that’s going to be absolutely key to the country’s recovery. I thoroughly enjoyed being able to help the cause. My flight back to Kabul was obviously cancelled and I wanted to do my bit to help out.

“It’s plain to see how seriously service veterans are taking this. Ultimately, we provide much-needed experience and reassurance in very difficult circumstances and apply our skills and expertise to different procedures.”

Pictured left to right are James Parker, David Stubbs and David Childs.

Jane Farrell, head of security, Sodexo UK & Ireland, said: “We have worked with SSGC for many years and share many values including a commitment to the continual support in the employment of ex-armed forces personnel and their families. Like SSGC, we too are a signatory to the Armed Forces covenant and we are thrilled that through our partnership with them we are able to provide such a unique employment opportunity for so many veterans, and one which sees them play a critical role in the national effort to fight Covid-19 at the drive through testing centres which we are managing.”

Jonathan Brasher OBE, operations director for the Serco-managed testing centres, said: “Serco has more than 50 years of proud history working with the Armed Forces in the UK and elsewhere. When Serco was asked by the DHSC to manage a number of the Covid-19 drive-through testing centres, we reached out to organisations such as SSGC to support us.

“We are delighted this has resulted in so many veterans working at the centres and, once again, making a valuable effort to the national effort, this time to tackle Covid-19.”

David Stubbs added: “The business signed up to the AFC and we take that commitment very seriously. As a result, we have been able to use our automated vetting capability, which allows the rapid scaling of personnel, to place more than 700 security guards and marshals across the country – many of whom are distinguished military veterans.
“It’s hugely important to us to support veterans, many of whom have lost jobs or positions they have worked hard to achieve since leaving the forces.

“They are doing a truly excellent job as part of this huge national effort and we’re delighted to be able to provide such trusted and experienced personnel.”



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