Government should honour armed forces with “veterans’ covenant” – Jo

Jo has welcomed legislation proposed by the Liberal Democrats to improve access to services for servicemen and women who have left the armed forces.

The ‘Veterans Welfare Bill’ was presented to Parliament last week by Liberal Democrat MP for the Scottish Borders Michael Moore in response to reports that too many veterans end up with inadequate access to health services or financial support. The Bill would introduce a ‘Veteran’s Covenant’ setting out a duty of care for veterans in the same way that the Military Covenant does for serving members of the armed forces and their families.

The Bill seeks to improve the coordination and implementation of existing support programmes available for those who have served in the armed forces. If brought into law, it would require the Ministry of Defence to ensure that veterans’ needs are properly assessed and their access to support monitored appropriately, and that the Defence Secretary report to Parliament on veterans’ welfare issues on an annual basis.

Commenting, Jo said:

“I am delighted that my Liberal Democrat colleague Michael Moore has introduced this Bill to Parliament. Our veterans have sacrificed so much on our behalf, and it is only right that the help the Government offers them after they leave the armed forces reflects that.”

“Currently, although the Government’s responsibilities to servicemen and women are laid out in the Military Covenant, its responsibilities toward veterans are not made explicit anywhere. Having a ‘Veterans’ Covenant’ would mean the Government could be held accountable for how it treats those who have left the armed forces. This could only improve the quality of services available to veterans, some of whom are left isolated, vulnerable and out of pocket, despite their great service to this country.”

The outline of the Veterans’ Welfare Bill is as follows:

‘That leave be given to bring in a Bill to require the Secretary of State to review and report to Parliament annually on the support provided to armed forces veterans across the United Kingdom in respect of access to health services, access to welfare schemes and access to other support, and for connected purposes.’

Proposals in the Veterans’ Welfare Bill include:

• The establishment in statute of a Code on Veterans’ Welfare (‘the Veterans’ Covenant’) which will set out a ‘duty of care’ to veterans and the right to an individual ‘needs assessment’ (at the time of leaving the armed forces and at key points in later life) which spells out to which health, financial and other services they should have priority access and an agreed means for producing a monitoring report, at appropriate points, showing how they have accessed those services

• Placing a duty on the Ministry of Defence to implement the Veterans’ Covenant by (1) leading and co-ordinating the work of UK government departments and liaising with the devolved administrations; (2) maintaining a Register of Veterans which records the needs assessments and results of the monitoring reports; and (3) preparing an analysis of the issues arising from a review of the monitoring reports

• Requiring the Ministry of Defence to report to Parliament annually on the implementation of the Code and the review of the Register of Veterans

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