Committee recognises importance of Armed Forces Covenant
The Parliament Defence Committee has released a report on the Armed Forces Covenant Annual Report 2016, highlighting the importance of the scheme and commenting that it should be central to the government.
The report covers recommendations made by the Committee to ensure that the Covenant is supported as a driving force within government policy, including the suggestions of creating a new Ministerial Post within the Cabinet Office along with a dedicated unit to help monitor implementation and delivery.
The principles supported by the Covenant, the committee says, are applicable across society and the policy should be recognised with the creation of the new post.
The Defence Committee has examined themes arising through the annual report, such as healthcare, accommodation and education, and addresses areas that need further action.
Healthcare – needs better communication and more awareness of the priority services that exist for veterans in the NHS, both amongst clinicians and veterans themselves. While the Government should help to embed veterans health services into the healthcare system, in particular with mental health.
Education and local services – The report notes that Mobile Service families are still encountering difficulties in securing school places for their children outside of the normal admissions cycle, and that as the Defence Estate is consolidated, local service support must be increased.
Accommodation – While numerous reports have stated that service accommodation is not meeting standards; with personnel dissatisfied with options, repair and maintenance; the Committee reports that the Department needs to consult and engage with personnel before going any further with the Future Accommodation Model.
The Corporate Covenant and the Community Covenant – This has huge potential in engaging with business and local community. The committee recommends developing a more reciprocal relationship with business and ensuring local authorities have the core infrastructure necessary to implement the Covenant.
Dr Julian Lewis, Defence Committee chairman, said: “The Armed Forces Covenant sets out the debt the country owes to those who serve in our Armed Forces. It ensures that both veterans and serving personnel receive the recognition and support they richly deserve. The Government is making good progress in meeting the Covenant’s obligations.
“However, greater focus is needed on providing the housing, education and healthcare services the Armed Forces community rightly expects. For example, encouraging soldiers to buy their own homes, yet making them uneconomic to let when their owners are posted away from home, shows a lack of joined-up thinking. There also needs to be greater consistency of services and support across the UK.
“The MoD is aware of the need for more work in these areas and I am confident that the Defence Committee in the next Parliament will continue to monitor all organisations’ compliance with their duties under the Covenant.”
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