The Armed Forces Outreach Service supports members of the Armed Forces community, including those who have left (regardless of how long ago) or are leaving. The service also offers support and advice to serving reservists and to family members of the above groups. We have a point of contact within the different councils and housing providers across Gateshead, Newcastle, South Tyneside, Durham and Northumberland. As well as directly supporting members of the Armed Forces community, we refer clients to other specialist organisations we work in partnership with, meaning we can deal with a range of queries. We are proud to be Associate members of the Confederation of Service Charities (Cobseo).
Mick Downworth – a tribute
In January 2021, Michael Downworth (known as Mick), a pioneering member of the Armed Forces Outreach Service (AFOS), sadly passed away.
Mick was a driving force in the success of AFOS. He was first appointed as a part-time Armed Forces Outreach Worker in October 2012. Working in a role that was new and unestablished, he immediately reached out to the Armed Forces community. Within five months, Gateshead Council saw an 857% increase in requests for housing advice from that community, a group of people the council had previously never effectively worked with. Mick’s dynamic and vibrant personality and his own experience of the Armed Forces (he served as a combat medic for 23 years) drove him to improve our provision. Less than 12 months after starting in his role, awareness and interest in the service had grown so much that Mick was interviewed on Radio 4.
Mick soon made links with Armed Forces charity SSAFA, becoming a SSAFA caseworker, developing ideas to improve services that went way beyond the original remit of the role. Following the prestigious award to the service of the Municipal Journal Award in 2013 for “delivering better outcomes”, AFOS worked with other local authority partners and started to expand across Tyneside. The expanding profile and success of AFOS saw more staff across the region and a service that wasn’t bound by local authority borders. It is this continued success that resulted in an invitation to 10 Downing Street on two occasions in recognition of AFOS’ contribution to the Armed Forces community.
Mick was always onto new ventures and started a veterans’ breakfast club and a boat-building club, seeing the need for veterans to be brought together on a social level.
This continued innovative approach resulted in the service being recognised as national best practice from the Royal British Legion and Local Government Association. Working with more of our local authority partners, the service continued to expand and started operating in Northumberland and Durham in 2017.
Mick Downworth was never going to be just an Armed Forces Outreach Worker; he was always going to take the original AFOS idea and improve it beyond anything we could have hoped for.
It was an honour to work with him; he was inspirational to us all at AFOS. He leaves a huge void but also the great legacy of a successful regional Armed Forces Outreach Service that we are proud to be a part of.
This video was recorded in July 2020. In it, Mick talks about all the help offered by AFOS, the service he was instrumental in creating.
We are still offering support during the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak. Most of this is done remotely, due to the need for social distancing. See our phone and email contact information.