Today, I am laying before Parliament the Armed Forces Covenant Annual Report 2020. The pandemic has seen our armed forces once again step onto the frontline to protect our nation, from leading mass testing in Liverpool to constructing NHS Nightingale Hospitals. Such contribution demonstrates that the armed forces covenant is as important today as it was in 2011 and we are therefore proud to lay this report before Parliament.
The Government have built their support for armed forces families in 2020 with the launch of a wrap-around childcare pilot at test sites across the UK. The Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust has also awarded £7.2 million to 60 projects for military families. As well as the MOD’S investment of £123 million to service families accommodation, we have committed an extra £200 million to improve MOD accommodation to support the regeneration of the UK economy in the wake of the covid-19 pandemic. We have also extended the Forces Help to Buy scheme until December 2022, giving more service personnel and their families the opportunity to buy a home of their own.
Partners across the UK, in the public, private and charitable sectors, have been working hard to support those who serve or have served, and their families, throughout the covid-19 pandemic. The private sector has continued to demonstrate its support for the armed forces community, with the total number of armed forces covenant signings rising to over 5,800 by the end of September.
Ensuring that all veterans’ healthcare needs are met remains crucial. The number of GP practices accredited as veteran friendly has more than tripled to over 800. The Defence recovery capability review made 42 recommendations about future Defence recovery pathways for our wounded, injured and sick personnel, and in April we launched HeadFIT, an important tool to support mental fitness in the armed forces and to promote the good management of mental health.
While progress has been made, both this year and in previous years, more still needs to be done. Next year, the Government will honour our manifesto commitment to further strengthen the covenant in law. The Government, with partners across all levels of Government in the UK, service charities and the private sector, will continue to mitigate disadvantage wherever it is found within the armed forces community, seeking special considerations where appropriate.
This report is a collaborative effort. I would like to thank colleagues across Government, the devolved Administrations and local authorities, and partners across the UK who are continuing to drive forward the work of the covenant. I am also grateful to the external members of the Covenant Reference Group for their involvement throughout the process and for their independent observations.