The Armed Forces Covenant ensures that those who serve and have served in the Armed Forces, and their families, are treated fairly. In June 2013 the Chancellor announced that the financial commitment to the Armed Forces Covenant would be made permanent through a £10 million fund per annum in perpetuity from 2015-16.
The Annual Report on the Armed Forces Covenant from December 2015 detailed a number of achievements of which this Government can be proud, including allocating £40 million for accommodation projects for veterans; the £200 million Forces Help to Buy Scheme; and a world class centre for excellence for the training and delivery of Defence Medical Services.
In 2016 to date under the large grants scheme we have awarded a total of almost £7.5 million to 24 projects supporting community integration, criminal justice system initiatives and the co-ordination and delivery of support. Under the small grants scheme we have awarded a total of almost £2.4 million to 150 community integration projects. Depending on the quality of the bids, we hope to be able to announce the preferred bidder for the Veterans Gateway Service in November, as well as further tranches of Covenant Grant funding.
In January 2016, the Department published the first ever Armed Forces Families Strategy, embracing seven key themes - partner employment, accommodation, children's education and childcare, community support, specialist support, health and wellbeing, and transition. This is now routine business supporting our families.
We have reviewed our casualty and compassionate processes, and this autumn we are introducing a new reserves welfare health-check. In the last year Defence has enabled payroll deductions for Service personnel to take advantage of the savings and cheap loan facilities from selected credit unions. This facility was extended to veterans in receipt of a pension in March 2016.