I am today laying before the House the 2017 Armed Forces Covenant annual report. The Armed Forces Act 2011 set out the requirement for the Defence Secretary to report progress annually to Parliament. The Covenant is a promise by the nation to ensure that those who serve, or have served, and their families are treated fairly and suffer no disadvantage. The sacrifices made by serving personnel, veterans and their families should be recognised accordingly. The report describes what the Government, and wider society, has done to uphold the principles of the Covenant across the UK.
The Covenant is not only a debt owed by the nation to the Armed Forces community, it is also a mutually beneficial partnership between the military family and the wider society that they serve. The annual report highlights just some of the excellent initiatives being taken in local communities to deepen relationships and that the publication of the report today coincides with the announcement of O2 as the 2,000th business signing of the Covenant demonstrates the ongoing success in building partnerships with the private sector.
A consistent theme of this year’s report is a drive toward coordinating services across the core areas of the Covenant. The launch of the Veterans’ Gateway, funded by the Covenant and delivered by a Royal British Legion led-consortium, and the work of the Department of Health-led Transition Intervention and Liaison Services, in close co-ordination with Defence, are just two examples of working across organisational boundaries to provide a more coherent and focused service to the people that need it the most.
In the public sector new guidance for Local Authorities published this year will help to improve the consistency of delivery at a local level. As well as identifying examples of best practice the guidance explains how local support groups and organisations can share resources to help integrate military and civilian communities.
The mobile nature of Service life can lead to disadvantage in a number of areas, one of which is access to education. The inclusion of Service children as a target group for universities in their fair access agreements, acknowledges this and the ability to identify Service children when moving between schools will help to minimise the impact to their education.
The Government’s new Ministerial Covenant and Veterans Board will also ensure a more coordinated approach, confirming that providing support to Service personnel, veterans and their families remains a top priority, and the report also sets out the key commitments for 2018.
The report has been compiled in consultation with other Government Departments, the Devolved Administrations, and the external members of the Covenant Reference Group.
I am grateful to them all for their contributions, and their continued support as together we ensure our Armed Forces community receive the support they deserve.