The government is promising to do more to ensure armed forces personnel, veterans and reservists are treated fairly when it comes to their welfare.
The Armed Forces Covenant promises respect, support and fair treatment for the military community and their families.
The latest report on the Covenant, and how it is being delivered, concludes that the need for it is more relevant than ever, as our Armed Forces continue to be engaged in operations worldwide.
In his introduction to the report, Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon says service personnel and their families face “unique challenges” in accessing healthcare, education, accommodation, spousal employment, and getting fair access to commercial and private goods and services.
Minister for Veterans, Reserves and Personnel, Mark Lancaster says the new government is committed to the promises of the covenant, but he recognises there is work to be done.
He claims there have been successes in education, through the delivery of the Service Pupil Premium, which has allocated £22m to help 73,000 forces pupils with pastoral care and specialist services over the last 3 years.
More than 9000 service personnel have benefited from the Forces Help to Buy scheme, designed to help them get a mortgage, to get on the property ladder.
COMMERCIAL GOODS AND SERVICES:
83 percent of insurance companies have now ensured clients do not have to cancel their policies when their circumstances change.
Fewer service personnel have to cancel their mortgages when they move overseas.
So which areas need improving?
The Future Accommodation Model aims to improve the standard of housing for service personnel and their families, by replacing service families accommodation with a series of allowances to help buy or rent properties.
But there are concerns that moving away from military bases could harm morale and unit cohesion, and raise security issues.
Mark Lancaster MP also plans to raise awareness of mental health issues within the Armed Forces community, by working with the Department of Health to get proper provision for veterans in need of support.
Implementation of the Armed Forces Covenant in Northern Ireland is also challenging; as some political parties refuse to recognise all of its aspects; chiefly its pledge that:
“Special consideration is appropriate in some cases, especially for those who have given most such as the injured and the bereaved.”
Mark Lancaster claims 93% of the Covenant is being accepted but is planning a visit to the province to work with a dedicated welfare team and service charities to administer the Covenant there.
So what are the Covenant’s main aims for the New Year?
FAMILIES IN STRESS
Covenant funding is being allocated to projects that support families of serving personnel who are experiencing a significant stressful life event.
That includes life-changing injury, bereavement, domestic abuse, relationship break-up, those subject to the civil or service justice system or mental health issues.
The Royal British Legion will lead a £2 million “Veterans Gateway” service.
It will provide a 24/7 phone number, a dedicated website and a mobile app to access support on a range of issues including housing, employability and health.
Supported by Combat Stress, SSAFA, the Armed Forces Charity, Connect Assist and Poppyscotland, the service will be operational from 1 April 2017.
For more information: armedforcescovenant.gov.uk