Minister meets staff and supporters during Corsham visit
Heledd Kendrick, founder of the award-winning Recruit for Spouses agency, is delighted with Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith's pledge of support.
He visited the social enterprise employment agency, set up to provide a support network for military spouses looking for work, at Hartham Park, Corsham, on Friday.
The agency was founded in 2009 by military wife and former journalist Mrs Kendrick and aims to tackle prejudices in the workplace.
Supporters gathered to tell Mr Duncan Smith about their experiences, including Emma Cheedy, 38, of High Wycombe, who secured a job with the Service Children Support Network via the agency.
Mrs Cheedy, formerly a civil servant, struggled to find work because employers feared she would move due to her husband’s work.
She said: “So many people have given up careers to follow their husband round. We want to work, but we’re not given the opportunity because employers don’t see us as reliable.
“It really upset me, because they weren’t looking past my name and address. They weren’t looking at my qualifications. That’s why so many service spouses don’t work.”
Others find it difficult to claim Job Seeker’s Allowance and get its free training as they are classed as having voluntarily left a job.
Mr Duncan Smith said he had served in the Army, but had been unaware of the issue and hoped to work with them to solve it.
He said: “I was in the Scots Guards and they tended, when they came back, to be posted in and around London, so it was a little easier for wives and others to be employed.”
Mrs Kendrick said Mr Duncan Smith’s visit had been an encouragement to the team.
“It makes us get up in the morning, knowing that we are getting people into work," she said.
"He really listened. A lot if people don’t always get it and they always think we’re looked after by the MoD when we’re not. It’s about time that everyone was challenged about it.
“What we’re trying to say is that people should not ask military wives about their address. It’s about creating awareness because for so many years people have stuffed it under the carpet.
“He’s asked us now to meet him in London and present our ideas to him.”
Mr Duncan Smith also give Michelle Donelan, Chippenham’s Conservative candidate, support ahead of next year’s election.
He said: “We want to win seats like this, so we can end up being in government. We have done well as a coalition, but I think we can do better as a Conservative government.”