The Royal British Legion has launched its annual poppy appeal and our thoughts turn towards Remembrance Day and the armed forces.
This year the Legion is highlighting the new generation of veterans that need the Legion’s support. Whilst for many of us thinking of veterans stirs up thoughts of the World Wars and Korea, there are many younger service personnel and veterans who rely on the support of the Legion to bring some sense of normality back to their lives and to open up new opportunities.
The voluntary sector has played an invaluable role in supporting our veterans over the years and has left the public sector playing catch up. Things took a step forward in 2013 with the introduction of the Armed Forces Covenant – a pledge by the nation, public sector and businesses that, those who serve or have served, and their families, are treated fairly and are supported through services, policy and projects.
Undoubtedly the Armed Forces Covenant has helped nationally, but in a recent survey conducted by the military charity SSAFA, 84% of veterans did not think that the Covenant was being implemented at all and almost half of the armed forces surveyed had not heard of it.
We owe a duty of care to those who have served and who continue to serve. We need to make sure that the Covenant delivers.
For this reason the Veterans Minister commissioned ‘Forces in Mind Trust’ and the Local Government Association to undertake a review into how the covenant is being implemented.
This review provided examples of best practice across the Country in areas such as housing, education, healthcare and employment. A report called ‘Our Community – Our Covenant’ was produced setting out ways to improve delivery.
After meeting the Legion recently, I decided to follow up by asking our Council how it delivers the Covenant. I was told that SSAFA and the Legion can hold drop-ins in Southwater and work is done to ensure the community remembers the fallen. This is welcome, but more is done in other areas of the Country and I want to see more done in Telford to improve the lives of veterans.
I am proud of our armed forces, as we all are, not just on Remembrance Day but everyday. Over the next year I will be pushing to ensure Telford meets veterans’ needs and delivers on the Armed Forces Covenant.