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Armed Forces Community Covenant Scheme

Volume 542: debated on Monday 26 March 2012

14. What assessment he has made of the efficacy of the armed forces community covenant scheme; and if he will make a statement. (101609)

It is too early to assess the efficacy of the scheme, which was launched less than a year ago, but the level of interest from communities across the UK is very promising. More than 40 councils have already signed a covenant, and more than £2 million has already been allocated to support local projects under the grant scheme.

I thank the Minister for that answer. I am particularly interested in soldiers’ mental health. What is the MOD doing to increase public understanding and awareness of potential mental health issues among armed forces personnel, especially in preparation for the troop draw-down from Afghanistan?

We take the issue of mental health extremely seriously, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman will know. I particularly pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for South West Wiltshire (Dr Murrison) for his “Fighting Fit” report. We have implemented a great many of his recommendations and I believe we will implement them all, including working closely with Combat Stress, which we continue to do. Combat Stress has installed a helpline for those in trouble. We continue to take this matter seriously. It is not really part of the armed forces community covenant, but we see it as part of wider covenant issues.

On celebrating links between communities and the armed forces, will the Minister note the extremely strong support shown by the town of Warminster on 16 March as 3rd Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment, which is deploying in extremely difficult circumstances to Afghanistan, marched through the town?

I will. We all know of the tragedies in Afghanistan, and there cannot be anyone in the House who has not shed a tear for the brave young men who die in the service of their country. I pay tribute to the people of Warminster and, indeed, to their Member of Parliament.