Supporting our veterans

I have welcomed a new push from Government to support the country’s veterans.

Last week, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson launched the Veterans Strategy and new cross-Government Veterans Unit.

The unit will focus on the unique challenges veterans’ face when returning from conflict areas or leaving the Armed Forces, including homelessness, loneliness, debt problems, and mental health issues.

The Veterans Unit will champion the changing needs of the ex-service community and ensure action is taken to meet these. The Defence Secretary will work together with other departments in Whitehall and the devolved administrations to ensure the Veterans Strategy meets the evolving needs of former service personnel from across the UK.

The vast majority of those leaving the armed forces go on to lead fulfilling lives, using the professionalism and skills they developed in the forces elsewhere.

But for others, leaving can mean dealing with a range of issues – it is this minority who we need to provide with new opportunities, guidance and support.

We have a responsibility to those who have served our country, so I very much welcome this significant milestone in supporting our veterans.

The Government has identified several key priority areas that affect a small but significant number of veterans and asked the new team and Ministerial Board to prioritise these issues:

  • Debt - How we can best help veterans meet the financial demands of civilian life. This issue represents the highest percentage of calls to the Veterans Gateway.
  • Housing- How to offer the best advice for those leaving the Armed Forces. Whilst the Covenant already puts an obligation on local authorities to ensure they provide fair access to housing for veterans there are still a small number of individuals that require further support.
  • Social Isolation - Supporting community integration for those who feel a loss of camaraderie upon leaving the Armed Forces. Younger veterans can struggle with a disassociation from civilian life so the new strategy will focus on connecting with the Loneliness Strategy to help address this.
  • Mental and Physical Wellbeing – Ensuring this is maximised, especially for those with lasting physical or mental health issues as a result of their service.
  • Public Perception – Improving how veterans are viewed, perceptions are often inaccurate, outdated or clichéd and do not recognise that most veterans are proud members of our society with a huge amount to offer.

Earlier in March, the Government also launched a new scheme to support veterans and ex-service personnel into teaching (link).