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Veterans: Covid-19 Support

Volume 685: debated on Monday 7 December 2020

The full range of veterans’ support services, including the Veterans UK helpline and the welfare service, have continued to be provided throughout the covid-19 pandemic, with appropriate adjustments to keep people safe. This Government have sponsored a study into the specific effect of covid on the veteran community, and we will report on that in the next few months.

I welcome the study. This year has been very challenging for older veterans, who are more at risk of isolation because of the covid-19 lockdowns and restrictions and the tightening of funding for military charities. What work is the Minister undertaking to ensure that no veteran in Putney and across the country is going lonely this Christmas?

Over the course of the past 15 months, the UK’s first Office for Veterans’ Affairs has spent every day trying to design a system to stop veterans who leave the military from falling through the panoply of services that are there. That includes working with the third sector, which has an enormously important role, and also with statutory provision, because we understand that, ultimately, this nation’s duties to its veterans should be ensured—not delivered—by the state. I am determined we will reach the goal that this will be the best country in the world to be an armed forces veteran.

I thank the Minister for his remarks. As he knows, many of our veterans up and down the country have faced loneliness and isolation as they shield during the pandemic, and that feeling will only get worse as we approach Christmas, with the reality of not being able to see family as usual. Will the Minister support and promote the Jo Cox Foundation’s “Great Winter Get Together” to help our veterans who may be experiencing loneliness this winter?

I would be delighted to support the initiative in the name of my friend, Jo, who was in the same parliamentary intake as me. Loneliness is an acute problem, particularly at this time of year, and I am especially aware that our veterans, who often depend on the sort of face-to-face contact of such things as cognitive behavioural therapy, will have been challenged by the specific circumstances we find ourselves in. I would be delighted to support that effort.