AFTER almost 18 months the Community Covenant has helped service personnel in Oxfordshire to the tune of £391,541.

The Ministry of Defence’s £30m scheme, launched in June 2011, has so far backed 10 projects in the county.

One of the main focuses of the covenant has been to provide support for service personnel who have left the forces to find a job.

Carterton Job Club received £35,000 and Carterton Community College has been given £37,709 to provide courses for RAF Brize Norton personnel.

But the MoD also provides an extensive range of services for forces leavers, which offers help up to two years before their discharge date.

Service leavers can receive grants, allowances, resettlement leave, workshops, one-to-one career advice and support with housing and finances.

Sarah Dureau, who left the RAF in February after a high-level 16-year career as a military solicitor, was one of those to benefit.

A year before she left, the MoD started helping with the transition and she attended free courses in interview skills, tax issues, civilian law and starting a business.

Mrs Dureau said: “There is a lot there but you have to be proactive in taking advantage of it.”

She said she regretted not taking up the offers of help earlier.

She added: “One piece of advice I would give is to start having thoughts about what you are going to do two years before you leave the military or sooner.

“I have done that in the year since I left, but you can come out up and running.”

Mrs Dureau, who reached the rank of Wing Commander, spent her career travelling the world to defend and prosecute service personnel in courts martial.

She was a key figure in bringing airforce, army and navy law into line with each other for what became the Armed Forces Act 2006 – the biggest revision of forces law since 1955.

In 2007, she was posted to Naples, the Nato headquarters to the Balklans and Iraq, and worked on operational law alongside international colleagues.

Since leaving the forces, she has set up a solicitors office in Station Lane, Witney, and works as a consultant to Salisbury firm Parker Bullen. Although she has civilian clients, she focuses particularly on representing military personnel and their families in legal issues.

She said: “It was a huge decision for me to make.

“There is a real sense of loss when you leave the military, and they tell you about that.

“It is a cliché, but the military is not just a job, it is a way of life.

“You are part of something and that is what makes the armed forces so professional and successful.”

MoD spokesman Tom Bennett said: “More than 18,000 people leave the services each year and the vast majority build successful civilian lives.

“They play important roles in their local communities and are highly coveted for jobs.

“Making the transition from the Armed Forces into civilian life can be daunting, which is why we have a robust and effective resettlement system in place, used by 95 per cent of personnel.”

Oxfordshire County Council military champion, former leader Keith Mitchell, said: “A lot of our population are military and it is important to us to give them support.

“That is why we were the first to sign the Community Covenant.”

He added: “It has started to make a difference. Quite a lot of military redundancies are about to start and we are geared up for that.”