The Government today (10 December) publishes its fourth annual report on the Armed Forces Covenant, which ensures that past and present personnel and their families are treated fairly.
Service families move home more often than civilian families, on average every other year to locations across the UK and abroad. This can make accessing some national and local services and benefits that civilian families take for granted more challenging, including getting a mortgage, maintaining a place on NHS waiting lists, and getting a school place for their children.
When posted abroad, Armed Forces families are given a military postal address that is not currently recognised by every UK financial provider. This can affect their ability to build a strong credit history. The Ministry of Defence (MOD) is working with partners across the financial and commercial services sector to make sure Service personnel and their families have fairer access to financial products, such as insurance and mortgages.
Businesses, Local Authorities and charities have signed up to the Armed Forces Covenant, committing to delivering fair access to public and commercial services. In total, more than 750 businesses have made that promise. These promises are then implemented through a combination of new services, policy and projects, many of which are supported by the Armed Forces Covenant Fund.
On the publishing of the report, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said:
This report sets out how we are upholding the nation’s commitment to the Armed Forces community.
Last year, Service personnel asked for more support on family healthcare, children’s education, spousal employment and commercial disadvantage. We have delivered substantial improvements, but there is more to be done.
The Armed Forces community can help decide how the Armed Forces Covenant continues to create a fairer society for them. We want their feedback on the report, so that we know where to direct action next year.
The Armed Forces Covenant has also been extended to include members of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary and Merchant Navy who meet the definition of a veteran. It’s estimated that this will affect nearly 30,000 veterans.
Chief Officer Frank Andrews, who served in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) for 34 years and is now chairman of the RFA Association said:
The Royal Fleet Auxiliary has extremely close links with the Royal Navy and it means a lot to me that today civilian seafarers have the national recognition they deserve for serving this country in the Second World War and subsequent conflicts.
Not all of us came home, and those that did were forever changed by the experience of war. It is only right that the Armed Forces Covenant has been extended to make the Royal Fleet Auxiliary and the Merchant Navy eligible for veteran support.
Some of the Armed Forces Covenant 2015 national achievements are:
- The Armed Forces Covenant is now at the centre of the NHS constitution, an important step for the delivery of local health care. Now 81% of Service personnel report good access to medical care and 98% of Armed Forces families have good access to GPs.
- £2m grant awarded to create a NHS Specialist Rehabilitation Unit.
- Children of personnel can now get school places before moving into an area, following an amendment to the Schools Admission Code
- £21m of Service Pupil Premium payments made to support the pastoral needs of over 60,000 Service pupils in state schools.
- 24,500 children from Service families have benefitted from 154 grants for Education Support Funding to help schools mitigate and manage issues caused by Service families moving as a result of deployment.
- Spouses returning from overseas can now immediately claim Jobseeker’s Allowance, as they have been made exempt from the need to be a UK resident for three months in order to claim.
- More than 400 spouses of Armed Forces personnel now to be offered £1,000 grants for training and education.
- Mobile phone providers Vodafone, EE, O2 and Three will now allow Service personnel and their families to suspend phone contracts whilst on overseas deployment, so that they are not required to pay for services that they are not using.
- A credit union has been set up to provide personnel with safe, affordable loans.
- In 2015, more than 5,200 Service personnel have been helped on to the property ladder through the on going Forces Help To Buy scheme
To find out more about the Armed Forces Covenant, please visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/armed-forces-covenant-supporting-information