Picture: Royal Navy.
Armed Forces Covenant

Armed Forces Covenant: 1,500 Organisations Sign On Despite COVID-Hit Year

London Fire Brigade and Leicester Tigers Rugby Club are among those who committed to sign the pledge in 2020.

Picture: Royal Navy.

The year of 2020 has seen 1,500 businesses, charities and public organisations sign the Armed Forces Covenant, an annual report has shown.

The Armed Forces Covenant (AFC) was established two decades ago and today works to support active and former service personnel, alongside their families, across a range of fields.

Educational and financial support, healthcare and housing fall under the Government pledge to ensure the forces community has fair access to services and products – not to be disadvantaged by their service.

More than 6,000 organisations have now signed on since 2011, with many pledging to actively recruit veterans and train them for free.

While many groups and industries have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, London Fire Brigade, Leicester Tigers Rugby Club, and Yorkshire Water are among the 1,500 organisations to sign the AFC.

The AFC Report 2020 details new measures taken on, including bespoke career support for military spouses and an extension to the Forces Help to Buy scheme, which has helped 22,000 personnel on to the housing ladder since 2014.

Alongside this, a Future Accommodation Model pilot has been rolled out, with the aim of offering more flexible housing options, while a free 'wraparound childcare' pilot scheme gives service children aged between four and 11 extra care during term time.

House keys (Picture: PA).
Initiatives launched this year under the AFC have focused on housing support for the military community (Picture: PA).

Johnny Mercer, Minister for Defence People and Veterans, said: "Over the past year we’ve provided a cash boost for family accommodation, introduced free breakfast and after-school clubs for military children, and enhanced employment opportunities for veterans with our guaranteed interview scheme.

"Six thousand signatories is an important milestone and I’m determined we do all we can to ensure our people are not disadvantaged by their service."

Businesses of any size can sign on to the AFC, many in the past committing to flexible working patterns for reservists, military spouses and partners.

Organisations including West Midlands Fire Service, Coventry City Football Club, Royal Bank of Canada, and Nottingham Trent University have also signed the pledge in 2020, joining Microsoft, Amazon, and the Metropolitan Police.

The pledge has seen several initiatives to aid the transition from the military to civilian life – the past year has seen the introduction of a guaranteed interview for civil service jobs for veterans and a railcard for travelling veterans.

Meanwhile, 800 GP practices in England are now accredited as veteran-friendly, with 54 hospitals also 'veteran aware' – ensuring extra support reaches those leaving the services.

Cover image: Royal Navy.