What Is The Armed Forces Covenant?

What Is The Armed Forces Covenant?

The term 'Armed Forces Covenant', also referred to as 'Military Covenant', first came into British public life in the year 2000. But what...

What Is The Armed Forces Covenant?
It's been around since 2000 but what exactly does the term 'Armed Forces Covenant' mean?
Also referred to as 'Military Covenant', it's a pledge from the government to 'treat members of the British Armed Forces and their families with fairness and respect'.
The Covenant focusses on helping members of the armed forces community have the same access to government and commercial services and products as any other citizen.
According to the official Covenant website this support is provided in a number of areas including:
  • Education and family well-being
  • Having a home
  • Starting a new career
  • Acess to healthcare
  • Financial assistance
  • Discounted services

It originated in a booklet published by the Army, entitled 'Soldiering – the Military Covenant', which set out the mutual obligations between the nation and its Armed Forces. Its introduction reads as follows:

"Soldiers will be called upon to make personal sacrifices – including the ultimate sacrifice –; in the service of the Nation. In putting the needs of the Nation and the Army before their own, they forego some of the rights enjoyed by those outside the Armed Forces. 
"In return, British soldiers must always be able to expect fair treatment, to be valued and respected as individuals, and that they (and their families) will be sustained and rewarded by commensurate terms and conditions of service..."
"This mutual obligation forms the Military Covenant between the Nation, the Army and each individual soldier; an unbreakable common bond of identity, loyalty and responsibility which has sustained the Army throughout its history."

The Armed Forces Covenant is used to measure whether the government, and country in general, is doing enough to support members of the armed forces, be it through adequate safeguards, rewards, or compensation.

It is not, however, enshrined by law - which would allow British service personnel to sue the state for breaches of it. According to The Guardian:

"It is an informal understanding, rather than a legally enforceable deal, but it is nevertheless treated with great seriousness within the services."

But that doesn't mean it can't cause change. Several Chiefs of the Defence Staff, and organisations like the Royal British Legion (RBL), have referred to it in the past when arguing that governments need to do more for the forces community.

In 2007, in response to an RBL campaign, the Labour government of the time announced that veterans would get priority treatment on the NHS and that injured personnel would be immediately treated in hospital rather than having to go through waiting lists. Prescription charges were also waived.

In 2008, meanwhile, Mr Justice Blake referred to the Military Covenant when upholding the claim of six Gurkha soldiers to have the right to settle in the UK at the end of their service.

A month after the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government came to power in 2010, it was reported that Prime Minister David Cameron planned to enshrine the Armed Forces Covenant in law.

These plans were deemed unnecessary and dropped the following year, however, with it instead agreed that the government would submit an annual report on the covenant to parliament, assessing how it is achieving its own goals for the armed forces, veterans and their families. 

More: Armed Forces Covenant In Action